Being a database consultant has given me the opportunity to see organizational change up close. Change can be very difficult for the individual, which, in turn, can greatly impact the organization. I've been advocating for a fundamental change in consulting that will incorporate yoga principles with database development. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I intend to share my thoughts on how this weaving might work best. Most recently, in my yoga class, my mind wandered (what else is new) and I realize that if someone took a snapshot of our room during a specific pose, it would look like a picture of my ballet recital when I was three years old. We'd all be expressing the pose in our own way. That's the beauty of the practice of yoga. Expressing your uniqueness is not wrong, it's beautiful. Why? Because each person is in their own place in their practice. But, we all come together. Work together. Support each other. How wonderful and spectacular.
My dream is we could see this about database development as well. Your organizational readiness for a database is not necessarily going to be the same as another organizations. Just because you hear that an organization is using a donor database or Salesforce.com, doesn't mean the database will work for you. Heck, a DATABASE might not work for you at all... (oops, did I say that?!) Okay, I'll say it again:
Isn't there a saying:
Maybe, just maybe, there is a case for keeping your systems the way they are, no change. In my experience, before you jump into the pool with everyone else, ask yourself these two simple questions:
- Will this database be created because I need to measure or do something required by someone else? For example, if you find that your main reason for creating the database is because a funder has asked you to report on a specific data point regarding your clients, then it is the outside force that is driving the decision to create the database. It might be just as easy to modify an existing spreadsheet to collect those data points rather creating a database which is being driven because of this funder (an outside force). Outside forces drive the decision.
- Will this database be used to track specific requirements to help with making decisions about my organization or help me with the operations of the organization? For example, your organization is trying to make a strategic decision about the individuals whom you serve. Your existing system of collecting data doesn't provide the information needed to make these key decisions that will drive programming and volunteer needs. Decisions come from within.
Do you see the key here? It has to do with whether the decision is coming from inside or outside. It's much better to allow systems to grow organically, through critical thinking and decision making. Growing from the inside and making decisions based on actual need will make for the best systems - those that are embraced by everyone in the organization. These systems will succeed and thrive.
If you see an organization with a database (donor, client management, etc.), don't presume that you need one too (remember, those outside forces?!). Like, when I look my neighbor who can get into a headstand in the middle of the room. I look in admiration at the skill and ability of this yogi. I don't attempt to do a headstand in the middle of the room (okay, maybe I do, once, but then never again...). Seriously, the outside force doesn't get me to do the headstand, instead, it was my body telling me "I'm ready". You've got to be willing to listen to your organization to hear "I'm ready" -- because my decisions are coming from within.
Don't look at your peers who have a highly functional database with jealousy. Realize that they worked hard to get there. Appreciate where they came from and where they are now. Look at them with admiration and love! Yes, with LOVE, this is the compassionate sector, right?!
Change your organization from the inside with love, appreciation and admiration for yourself and your peer organizations. That's the only true way change can be embraced in your organization.