Thanks to Michele at the Bamboo Project for a great post that got me thinking more and more about thinking small.
I’ve just been having some thoughts about organization growth. If a nonprofit is not growing, it is considered to be stagnant. If it’s shrinking, it’s failing. A growing organization can serve a growing number of people. Moreover, the bigger the organization is, the more funding it has coming in, making it more stable. Bigger is therefore always better. So I’m led to believe.
It’s just that with any big operation, be it a government’s military, a University, or an organization, it turns into a complex machine. The inputs get farther and farther separated from the outputs as workers specialize; the grants and funding aspect in particular takes on a life of its own, and it builds up some serious momentum and stability to keep on going.
To my eye, there are a few major weaknesses in this plan. The first is that a large operation is much more difficult to change quickly. The second is that the specialized workers easily lose sight of the big picture. The third is that more funders have more influence over what the organization does and how.
Maybe I’m a control freak. Maybe I’m young and foolishly impatient. Maybe I’m using a poor metaphor when I state that I would rather captain a skiff than a tanker. I know a tanker holds more people, but that’s another thing, and maybe the crux of it for me when I think about it: you notice if someone falls out of the skiff.