Flow Management

Management is about satisfying psychological needsHumans.  People.  They are the reason for a project, the supporters of a project, and the executers of a project.  They are the common denominator between beneficiaries (those whe recieve your services), stakeholders (those who give you money to facilitate those services), and employees (you and your non-profit staff).  All three groups share universal human characteristics. Without these groups of people, these entities, no project exists. Yet, the desired outcome is more than mere project existence or execution; it is to meet or exceed project objectives.  A successful project meets its objectives by identifying beneficiaries, stakeholders, and employees as three separate yet equally valued entities, and then by satisfying the humanistic needs of each.  A successful and sustainable project will do this, however, it will also identify a fourth entity equally worthy of satisfying, itself.  Treat your non-profit as if it had the same psychological needs as a person.

The caveat to achieving both success and sustainability (by this I mean continued funding!) is two-fold. First, in order for a project to satisfy beneficiaries, stakeholders, employees, and itself, the manifestations of the inherent psychological needs of each entity must be delineated, and then satisfied.  Of course, the most primary needs are physical: food, water, shelter.  Once these are satisfied, it is the psychological needs that drive the motivations, actions, and self-determination of all four entities.  They are the psychological needs for competency, autonomy, and relatedness (Ryan, 2000)

They are universal, though they manifest themselves differently between groups.  Regardless of the variability, satisfying the psychological needs of all the different groups can be accomplished in a similar manner, through education.

The second fold of the caveat is in balancing skills with challenge for all parties.  Education is a costly investment; it can reap great benefits, but cannot be directly ‘retrieved’.  It is critical to acknowledge if or when any of these educated entities is no longer in the flow; that is, they are no longer engaged, no longer motivated, (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997), and subsequently no longer learning.  A faithful beneficiary becomes complacent, supportive stakeholders become apathetic, talented employees find new jobs, and what was once a successful, dynamic project becomes stagnant.  The solution to sustaining a motivation to learn is in the balancing of skill and challenge, while allowing for self-determination.  This balance must first be maintained for each individual within each group, then for each group as a whole.  Additionally, the flow of each group must be balanced against the flow the rest.  This is called Flow Management.

The philosophy of Flow Management assumes that all purposeful actions can be distilled, and viewed as manifestations of motivations.  These motivations can be distilled further to reveal inherent psychological human desires: desires to be more competent,more autonomous, or more emotionally related to others. Flow is a measurement of motivation or engagement, be it a motivation to buy, support, work, or grow.  Flow canbe managed with well-designed education delivery systems.

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