Organizational Sustainability

Organizational sustainability is often misunderstood to mean primarily financial sustainability. That misconception occurs because, when an organization becomes unsustainable, the symptoms of that problem show up in the finances. However, organizational sustainability -- or the surviving or even thriving of an organization -- depends on much more than effectively managing the organization's finances. Just like the sustainability of individuals and families, there are many complex and dynamic dimensions that must be sustainable in organizations, as well. However, in an organization, there are some primary dimensions that, if they are managed well, will ensure the sustainability of the organization.

NOTE: If You're Looking for the topic of Sustainable Business Development (e.g., "Green" Sustainable Development), then see
Sustainable Business Development

Sections of This Topic Include

Primary Dimensions of Organizational Sustainability
Sustainability of For-Profit and Government Organizations
--- Strategic
--- Products, Services and Programs
--- Personnel
--- Financial
--- To Develop Organizational Sustainability Plans
Sustainability of Nonprofit Organizations
--- Strategic
--- Products, Services and Programs
--- Personnel
--- Financial
--- To Develop Nonprofit Organizational Sustainability Plans
Suggestions to Address Current Sustainability Problems

Also See the Library's Blogs Related to Organizational Sustainability

In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to Organizational Sustainability. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog.

Library's Consulting and Organizational Development Blog
Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Supervision Blog

Also see
Related Library Topics


Primary Dimensions of Organizational Sustainability

1. Strategic Sustainability -- Ensure Realistic Vision and Goals

If an organization is trying to do far too much, it will likely not have enough resources, including not enough money to do what it wants to do. One of the most important considerations to have a realistic vision and goals for the organization. If these are not realistic, then many of the other activities in the organization will not be realistic, as well. The solution is not to keep trying to get more money.

2. Product and Program Sustainability -- Ensure High-Quality Products, Services and Programs

If your organization does not have high-quality products, services and programs, then customers' and clients' participation will eventually decline as will funding. That's why it's so important to do a few things very well, rather than a lot of things not so well. The solution is not to keep trying to get more money to offset deficits. The solution is to pick which products, services and programs you can do very well, do them -- and keep proving your strong results.

3. Personnel Sustainability -- Ensure Personnel Can Effectively and Reliably Perform

If your personnel do not fully understand their jobs or are not resourced to do their jobs, then your products, services and programs will be not be as effective as they could be. As a result, you'll make less money than you expected or the money you do make will not generate as much profit. Be sure personnel are fully trained and supervised well. Also be sure that, if a member of the organization cannot do his/her job, that someone else can do that job in a timely fashion.

4. Financial Sustainability -- Conduct Financial Reserve and Contingency Planning

If the above 3 dimensions are not effectively addressed, then symptoms show up in the finances when there's not enough money. However, there are two financial practices you should be doing regardless of whether you have enough money or not, and they include:

  1. Achieving a financial reserve -- obviously this is done over time and before a financial crises occurs.
  2. Doing contingency planning -- plan for what will happen if you get 10% less money than planned for the upcoming year and for what will happen if you get 30% less.

The following sections and links will help you address the above dimensions for your for-profit, nonprofit or government agency.



Avoiding Sustainability Issues in For-Profit and Government Organizations

Strategic

The following links will help ensure that your strategic planning results in realistic visions and goals.

Strategic Planning

In the topic at the above link, be sure to see the following articles:
How NOT to Do Strategic Planning
Always First Do "Plan for a Plan"
Sanity Solution
Basics in Developing a Vision Statement
Do a Grand Vision and Strategic Vision Statement
Basics of Action Plans (as Part of Strategic Planning)
How to Change the Plan
Embedding Sustainability in Organizational Culture
The Power Values that Drive Sustained Profitability

Also see
Strategic Planning

Products, Services and Programs

One of the best ways to ensure that these are carefully planned -- or reviewed -- is to do business planning. (There is often confusion about the different between strategic planning and business planning. Strategic planning is planning for the entire organization. Business planning is focused on a particular product or service.)

Various Approaches to Building Products and Services (the Business Planning approach is best)
Business Planning (For-Profit)
Program Planning (For-Profit)

Also see
Product Development
Program Management

Personnel

Staffing (Hiring, Orienting, etc.)
Training and Development
Employee Performance Management

Also see
Human Resources
Staffing

Financial

Financial Management (For-Profit)

Also see
Financial Management (for-profits)
Financial Management (nonprofits)

If You Resort to Trying to Get More Funds, Then See

Fundraising (For-Profit)

To Develop and Implement Organizational Sustainability Plans

Organizational Assessment of For-Profits (to identify what areas to improve)
Organizational Change (to identify how to improve those areas)
Getting Professional Help


Avoiding Sustainability Issues in Nonprofit Organizations

Strategic

The following links will help ensure that your strategic planning results in realistic visions and goals.

Strategic Planning

In the topic at the above link, be sure to see the following articles:
How NOT to Do Strategic Planning
Always First Do "Plan for a Plan"
Sanity Solution
Basics in Developing a Vision Statement
Do a Grand Vision and Strategic Vision Statement
Basics of Action Plans (as Part of Strategic Planning)
How to Change the Plan

Products, Services and Programs

One of the best ways to ensure that these are carefully planned -- or reviewed -- is to do business planning. (There is often confusion about the different between strategic planning and business planning. Strategic planning is planning for the entire organization. Business planning is focused on a particular product or service.)

Business Planning (Nonprofit)
Program Planning and Management (Nonprofit)

Personnel

Staffing (Hiring, Orienting, etc.)
Training and Development
Employee Performance Management

Financial

Financial Management (Nonprofit)

If You Resort to Trying to Get More Funds, Then See

Fundraising (Nonprofit)

To Develop and Implement Nonprofit Organizational Sustainability Plans

Organizational Assessment for Nonprofits (to identify what areas to improve)
Nonprofit Capacity Building (to undertake activities to improve areas)
Getting Professional Help


Suggestions to Address Current Sustainability Problems

If you currently have problems in sustainability, the following links to resources will be helpful. Your most immediate concern now is very likely that of insufficient financial resources. Keep in mind that financial problems are usually a symptom of other causes, which usually can be addressed by following the guidelines in the resources linked from the above sections of this topic. However, for now, it's very likely most important to address a shortage of financial resources. There are a variety of strategies in the resources from the following links. After addressing the financial issues, you should review the guidelines referenced from the links in the above sections to help your organization to avoid financial crises in the future.

Suggestions for For-Profits

Business Cost-Cutting Ideas
7 Easy Cost Cutting Measures
Cost-cutting ideas for Small Businesses
Cost Cutting Ideas for Businesses
Commentary: Cost-saving measures for businesses short of layoffs
How Companies are Cutting Costs
Temporary Cost Cutting Measures Violate the Wage and Hour Laws
Recession Cost-Cutting No-Nos
Business Cashflow Problems: Identify Cause & Solve
Could Fewer Products Lead to More Profits?
In Bad Economic Times, Should You Fire Clients?
People Problems Masquerading as Business Problems
How to Reduce Small Business Costs
Why Businesses Succeed and Fail

Suggestions for Nonprofits

Many of the problems faced by nonprofits are also faced by for-profits. So it's useful to review some of the resources in the above suggestions for for-profits.

What Nonprofits Can Do to Survive Financial Hard Times
Nonprofit Survival Tips
Cost Cutting (these are suggestions for for-profits, but most apply to nonprofits, too)
Succeeding Through Tough Times


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Additional Library Resources in the Category of Organizational Sustainability and Change

Related Library Topics

Recommended Books

This topic is about how organizations can remain sustainable -- remain strategically, operationally and financially viable into the future. If you are looking for how organizations can operate and not diminish the environment -- sustainable development -- then see the topic "Sustainable Development" in the Library.

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.

Also See

Financial Management (nonprofit) -- Recommended Books

Financial Management (for-profit) -- Recommended Books

Taxation (For-Profit) -- Recommended Books




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