npo leadership: working at the factory

Seth Godin, the great the thinker/author/provocateur wrote today about modern factory. He’s written a series of posts the last few days that deal with working and the work place. You can see today’s post here. He uses one of our favorite I Love Lucy episodes as an illustration. We used the same clip on the Oneicity site on our Why Relationships? page. Either place, it’s a great clip and a great lesson.

Seth writes:
Old time factories had a linear layout, because there was just one steam engine driving one drive shaft. Every machine in the shop had to line up under the shaft (connected by a pulley) in order to get power.

That metaphor extended to the people working in the factory. Each person was hired and trained and arranged to maximize output. The goal was to engage the factory, to feed it, maintain it and have it produce efficiently.

Later in the post he says:

Now it doesn’t matter where you sit. Now it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re adding to the efficiency or productivity of the machine. Now you don’t market to sell what you made, you make to satisfy the market. Now, the market and the consumer and idea trump the system.

How do you think about your work at your organization (or work for your organization)? Could we say that the donor and the donor’s desire trump what the organization might want to do? If we who serve don’t listen to donors, we could end up working in an empty factory (or maybe for an organization whose donors are deserting in droves).

I see a lot of takeaways for the nonprofit/ministry world in Seth’s post.

Consider another post he wrote a day or two back about the importance of people versus infrastructure. Maybe many of us could substitute “mission” or “program” for infrastructure? It is thought-provoking.

Could you see your nonprofit or ministry a “factory” as Seth describes? How is it similar? Do you know the “product” you’re assembling? Or is it impossible for you to imagine your role as a factory worker?

I’d love to know what you think.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity


(photo credit: House Of Sims)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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