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I have served most of my adult life in the non-profit sector, with a few forays into the marketplace.  Non-profits face very real challenges: inadequate funding, old technology, a reliance on volunteers.  With the great challenges come great blessings: a sense of purpose, making a difference, serving with passion.

One of the challenges that is common to most organizations (but I believe non-profits may feel to a greater degree) is a lack of nimbleness.

What does this mean?  I’m referring to the ability to quickly adapt or adjust to a change in business climate, opportunity, or crisis.  As organizations grow older and larger, thicker layers of red tape may develop.  As an entrepreneurial organization, decisions are made quickly and changed quickly.  In a bureaucratic organization, decisions may be made after the opportunity has passed.

Being nimble is not the same as being fickle.  It’s not about being trendy or gimmicky.  In fact, some of the most nimble organizations are the least trendy.

Being nimble requires a clear, shared sense of the desired outcome — and the freedom to get there without sitting through endless meetings or focus groups.

Being nimble means mistakes will be made.  The alternative? Be rigid, miss opportunities, and rob those around you of learning by doing.

Nimbleness does not mean no one is in charge; far from it.  It means that leadership has clearly communicated the direction and holds people accountable for moving the right way.

Is your organization nimble?