Should corporations learn from non-profits on team leadership?

From the Female Element Blog
Female Element blog is about experience and current trends in project management, digitalization and agile organizational transformation seen by eyes of a woman. Why to distinguish such view? Female and male brain operates differently and we may have various interpretations for the same situation. Female leadership is a thing and should be recognised. But mostly because more inclusivity for women is good for all aspects of business and we still have way to go.

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My most recent experience with project management is in non-profit environment where all of our team members are volunteers. Working with volunteers on long term assignments bring many specific challenges and opportunities yet I believe there are principles that may be transferred to a corporate world to benefit both individuals and companies. 

Selection of the project management approach

The decision to select agile project management methods was easy. Purpose of our work was to realize a new product vision. We needed to keep flexibility,  create ability to adjust quickly and manage progress by learning market feedback. 

Another reason came from nature of volunteering - volunteers may leave the project any moment, so we needed to manage the work by assigning small, understandable tasks within short time intervals (sprints) that required  minimum oversight and were possible to be completed shortly. 

“Agility plays a central role in the organization of the future, as companies race to replace structural hierachies with networks of teams empowered to action”, 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Study.

We would not have a chance to finish our project without agile approach. Companies seem to have a choice and that may slow them down. Is it possible to see any new product release or upgrade as a task for empowered, self-sufficient team that wants to succeed while not relying on a big company behind their back?

Motivation and engagement of the team members

Our whole team consisted of volunteers. Volunteers dedicate portion of their free time to give back to communities and support their cause. They are driven by their passion and willingness to learn new things. They are also professionals who are glad to acquire new skills and use their expertise and experience to make the project a success. 

Employees in organizations are indeed not volunteers. They operate within their range of responsibilities, yet they are expected to deliver innovations and continuously improve their operating processes. How to unlock potential of employees and support their professional growth within an organization? We’ve used a free volunteering marketplace to offer professionals to learn new skills, get practical experience and grow with us. Our project culture is open minded, transparent and empowering.

True talent development in a corporate environment should not be different, it requires to take the risk and enable employees to try new tasks and step outside their comfort zone. I like this example of large organization change, source McKinsey interview with ING leadership management on their agile transformation:

“We requested everyone to reapply for a position in the new organization. This selection process was intense, with a higher weighting for culture and mind-sets than knowledge or experience.... nearly 40 percent are in a different position to the job they were in previously.”

Non-profit organizations and corporations don’t seem to have much in common, but that’s just the first sight. Both models seek operating efficiency, results, effective dealing with limited resources and delivering innovation to better serve their customers or communities. 

Thanks for reading this! 




Posted on: October 09, 2018 08:41 PM | Permalink

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Corporation and governmental organizations have a lot to learn from non-profit and volunteer work.

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