Can You Smell the Change?
Smell the coffee
Do you need to be more awake to potential changes to be addressed? On a prosaic level, the complaints I hear from many CEOs at the moment about "the cutbacks in state/donor support" seem oddly dated. The current chill is simply doing something that was predicted even in the days following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. But many charities seem ill-prepared for the entirely predictable new order. How about you? Do you need to be more alive and awake to the changing environment you have to operate in?
Smell the rotten eggs
Do you sniff the air for things that don't seem right? For example, many charities lost significant money in the Icelandic banks fiasco, placing large amounts of reserves in accounts that seemed to offer improbably high ROIs. When the golden goose turned out to be barren, they complained loudly. But actually the financial press had been warning for months about the improbability of the accounts in question. Of course the "eggy smell" might be closer to home with a dysfunctional board or a senior staff member performing poorly. If there's a whiff of something going off, take action sooner rather than later.
Smell the smoke
Do you keep your nostrils on full alert for possible signs of smouldering that could turn into a burning platform? In China I told 70 senior Red Cross officials the news they're losing market share in some key income areas. The loss wasn't much — in one case a mere 0.7 percent over three years. But if the market in question is the $120 billion global governmental development budget — well, that's a very smoky smell. (Do the math.)
Continuing to lose that level of share could lead to a significant reduction in income. When there's a possible fire, you have to investigate and take early action.