For seven weeks, we're using this space to give voice to what it took to run Design Group International successfully. These largely match my remaining weeks as a Founder, CEO, and Chair of the Design Group International Partnership. I'm moving to advisory status with a lot of growing work ahead of me as an Executive Advisor, podcaster, and facilitator for Maestro-level leaders. These posts hope for a two-fold benefit: that it will be a repository for successors (It is my responsibility to provide it and theirs to discern any appropriate use) and to inspire others facing their exit or stepping in as a successor.
Design Group International grew from believing that ministry-related organizations could be served with world-class expertise by people freed up to keep learning. We needed a sustainable business platform rather than the non-profit donor development engine approach that repeatedly failed. As we launched, we landed on two insights early and did not look back.
1. Because we are a business, we attracted people with both non and for-profit experience, comfortable with either. This put us in the same wonderful space with venerated icons* like Peter Drucker, Ken Blanchard, Francis Hesselbein, Edgar Schein, and Peter Block. By differing pathways, each of these persons had applied their growing wisdom where:
- Profits would be used for much good.
- Doing good well would mean sustaining income to continue business next year also.
- People and culture could thrive regardless of incorporation style, or marketplace served.
2. "Walking alongside," our definition of help, makes us Process Consultants first and foremost. Whatever other expertise we have, the practice of Process Consulting is where we position ourselves to be thought leaders and prime developers of the field.
The fruit of these insights was a vision to build an administrative yet non-bureaucratic platform to walk alongside consultants as they walk alongside Clients. We created a lean yet sticky platform so consultants would not want to be elsewhere. Why move elsewhere when your administrative costs are reasonable and you have a strong community of practice with supportive colleagues? With a robust platform and community, Process Consultants are freed up to develop long and trusting Client relationships.
Our vision was to build this out and make it strong enough that the original partnership that took no salary for their time developing and running the business would get compensation for their investment through a growing stock price. This stock could then be sold back to the company or new partners when the company was in a sustaining position to do so. Those founding partners are doing exactly this while in their working prime, choosing a time when it is most affordable to the company rather than the most lucrative for themselves. They set an example of service first and what it takes for any company to live long and strong after its founders.
Our vision to provide a place where people could have a career-long consulting practice became more specific when we landed on that second insight of Process Consulting. It focused our decision-making on what would go on the platform and how we would administrate it -- believing it would appeal to multiple generations of consultants -- people we didn't even know yet.
We've done this and can accurately claim we completed the vision and are getting out of the way of our successors as they grab the baton and continue their sprint forward in good service. Holding the baton we placed in your hands gives you the next round of vision articulation and fulfillment. It is up to you to make it clear, compelling, attractive, and sticky. You won't want that wand slipping from the fingers of your successors when you slap it in their hands and get out of the way.
*Let's also note the length of life and careers of each of these persons. Peter Block and Ken Blanchard are a decade younger than Ed Schein who is still writing and influencing in his nineties. Peter Drucker died at ninety-five years of age. Frances Hesselbein is still fierce at 107.
Tags:process consulting, leadership succession, Mark L. Vincent, Design Group International, Executive Development, succession planning, Maestro-level Leaders, The Third Turn Podcast, Kristin Evenson, stewardship of a successor, Transition planning, Linda Milwanowski-Westdorp
December 15, 2022