How to Apply Lean Management to Nonprofit Organizations

Can Lean management produce the same benefits for nonprofit organizations as for corporations? Opponents of Lean nonprofit management say that Lean works in business because a profit motive exists; in charitable work, there is no such motive. Therefore, Lean is said to be a poor fit which could interfere with organizations' laudable aims.

An Alternative to the Profit Motive

Arts coordinator Jennifer Tobin might cite another motivating factor driving charitable organizations to get lean: Survival. Her Michigan theater, described as "lean and mean," has thrived despite a recession that left similar organizations reeling.

Jennifer succeeded where others failed, opting to reinvent her theater's pay structure for performers, keep payrolls lean, and trim operating expenses. But can the choices that worked for Tobin save other struggling nonprofits? What about organizations that do not sell tickets, or those operated entirely by volunteers? (more…)

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