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PBM 101: How to empower your team to improve decision-making

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PBM 101: How to empower your team to improve decision-making

In this Principle Based Management 101 series, we’re unpacking mental models, ideas, and tools you can use to level up your work.

This article was previously published by Stand Together Foundation.


Principle Based Management™ provides a holistic approach to making decisions, solving problems, and creating value for individuals in your community, team members in your organization, and society at large. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​It is rooted in proven principles that have fueled the ongoing success of Stand Together and our partners. In this Principle Based Management 101 series, we’re unpacking mental models, ideas, and tools that you can use to reach the next level in your work.

In your work as a nonprofit leader, much of your potential for success can be defined by one critical question: How do you ensure that everyone can acquire the information, perspectives, and ideas they need to improve decision-making and drive learning?  

This question impacts every department at every organization, from program management, to fundraising, to impact analysis. If your team members are empowered with trustworthy, timely knowledge, your nonprofit will achieve its mission more effectively than ever before. On the other hand, if knowledge is siloed, delayed, or otherwise limited, you will struggle to achieve meaningful and consistent results.  

This question is addressed by the Knowledge Processes Dimension of Principle Based Management (PBM). The Knowledge Processes Dimension frames knowledge as the means to making better decisions and driving progress. (Crucially, when we say “knowledge” in this context, we don’t just mean data, facts, or information. We also mean general understanding and know-how.)  

Consider these practices to improve the knowledge processes in your organization:   

  1. Acquire the best knowledge from any and all sources that will enable you to improve your performance. 
    The Knowledge Processes Dimension invites you to seek knowledge from sources both inside and outside your organization, community, industry, or field of expertise. Although it may be tempting to “stick with what you know,” society moves fast; your organization will never be able to keep up with the pace of change on its own. Instead, consider building knowledge networks that enable you increase your rate of learning. Beneficial measures and thoughtful experimentation creates knowledge that can also improve learning to propel your organization forward. Are you regularly getting insight from the perspective of your beneficiaries? Are you sharing ideas with like-minded nonprofit leaders? Are you keeping an eye out for new innovations that might impact your work?  
  2. Share your knowledge proactively. 
    The best Knowledge Processes are never a one-way street. At the same time that you’re building new knowledge networks to source information and experience, ask yourself who could benefit from your organization’s knowledge. Of course, indiscriminate knowledge sharing can be risky or counterproductive, so you’ll need to use good judgment. That’s why peer networks—like the Catalyst Community—are so valuable. They enable nonprofit leaders to acquire and share knowledge in a trustworthy and supportive environment that makes every participant stronger.  
  3. Provide and solicit challenge consistently and respectfully.
    Ultimately, knowledge will have little impact on your organization unless it’s transformed into action. One of the most effective ways to spark this transformation is by fostering a healthy challenge culture—continual questioning and brainstorming to find a better way. At its best, challenge is a respectful commitment to achieving the best results possible. It enables team members with different perspectives to share their knowledge and help each other think bigger and differently about solving problems. Challenge may occur in formal and informal settings, like team meetings, one-on-one discussions, or brainstorming sessions. However, challenge shows up at your own organization, you’ll want to ensure that every employee is empowered to share their opinions regardless of title, and that they’re prepared to challenge in the spirit of improvement and collaboration, rather than cynicism. 


Learn more about Principle Based Management and how it can help you transform your results.

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