Many of us are familiar with the concept of Maslow’s hammer, which states that if all you have is a hammer, most of your problems look like nails. However, in an organization, that is a critical mistake. Typically, organizations will take an approach of “we have the tools that we have, and let’s make them work.” However, we also only know how to use only some of the tools that we have, so our solutions must fit those tools. The reason that those two challenges continue to confront the small organization is twofold: First, smaller organizations tend to have a smaller set of technical resources from which to draw on. Second, the staff within the organization may have limited training on the full scope of capabilities of those programs, or has advanced training on certain applications but that skillset has lain fallow for quite some time. One of our key strategies when working with smaller organizations is to, as always, first understand the problem, but then ask this simple question: “Ceteris paribus, what tool or class of tool is appropriate to solve this problem?” We don’t ask that in terms of what is the current flavor of the month tool? We ask what is the best tool appropriate to an organization of this type and with this set of strategic and tactical goals?
For example, an organization plans to do a simple survey of its key stakeholders. Perhaps this is a 25 question survey, a mix of qualitative information and captured using a Likert scale, and some pure quantitative information as well. Now, if that organization tended to be a socially driven community- based nonprofit, the tool name that might pop up would be SPSS. If that organization were more of a quantitative-based organization, a tool name that may pop up might be SASS, or Minitab. However, if the only purpose of this survey is to do very simple quantitative analysis, some measures of correlation and measures of variance, why not use Microsoft Excel, and the built in statistical tools? Beginning with Office 2007, the number of rows and columns are theoretically infinite, so dataset is no longer a primary concern. The tool is readily available on most users’ desktops, and very simple to use in relation to our output. Now, does that say that SPSS, SASS, or other tools are never required? By no means! That is not what we’re saying.
In fact, Kelcey & Co. maintains our skill sets in a rather robust and deep set of analytical tools, including all of the tools provided by Palisade Software. We do so specifically because some data analysis needs additional levels of robustness and flexibility and capability that, while it may be available in Microsoft Excel, it is not tactically feasible to use that tool. The outcome of this is that the organization has the tool to do the job on site. Additionally the organization can either work with a trusted partner, such as Kelcey & Co., or develop that capability in-house using the tool that is evergreen within their environment, and therefore, minimizes the chance of skill degradation. That’s just one example, using quantitative analysis. The same types of examples apply in communications, strategic planning, tactical planning and implementation, metrics gathering, program management, et cetera. The key point is that there are a number of tools out there, and an organization should not limit its options simply because of the tools that are currently in the toolbox, nor should it acquire new tools based simply on reputation and fad. The right tool for the right task, at the right time. More importantly, the right partner. That’s Kelcey & Co..