Green is a color associated with the environment and is linked with the idea of growth and renewal. The Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, LLC Green Case Study Series is designed to introduce the types of projects the team lends its expertise to, as well as share some of the resulting questions, ideas, and lessons with a hope that it prompts exploration, growth, and innovation for other teams.
A recent project with IDEO.org is of particular interest, as it signals an approach that other organizations might use with great benefit. IDEO.org is a pioneer in the nonprofit design studio space. The team of 64 “designers, doers, storytellers, listeners, and problem solvers” has crafted products and services for a decade, alongside organizations that are committed to creating a more just and inclusive world. Our team had the privilege of partnering with IDEO.org, at the request of the Board of Directors, to lead the organization, with offices in Nairobi, New York, and San Francisco, through a four-month internal process to develop the leadership profile for its next CEO.
Most organizations immediately seek to either name an internal successor or engage an executive search firm to commence with a large-scale search. It is no surprise that an organization founded on the belief that design is at the core of decision-making wanted to center this process in one of its biggest decisions. On the other hand, there are plenty of instances where expediency takes precedence and core values, or operational principles are set aside. The IDEO.org team was committed to creating an internal process that would welcome all voices, to ensure the resulting leadership profile and CEO hire resonated with everyone. We managed this process with what we called the “Core Design Team,” which included a mix of board and staff members, while one leadership team member and one board member served as our team’s primary contact, meeting almost weekly to ensure alignment. The Interim CEO was involved, and to her great credit, she was incredibly supportive of a process that was built on proactive, inclusive learning vs. reactive presumption.
Our work began with a review of internal documents, including those related to the recent organizational-wide diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging (DEIAB) process. To ensure that every member of the board and team (including the former CEO) had a chance to share their insights the process included 1:1 conversations, focus groups, and a survey.
We used our proprietary approach, the TDB Group Truss Framework™, to create multiple potential pathways along with corresponding benchmarks. At the end of the process, the IDEO.org Board of Directors had a next step leadership profile and selection plan they could confidently count on to help them and the entire team confirm the next CEO. In the end, this collaborative undertaking wasn’t an alternative to vetting and hiring a national executive search firm. It was bigger, as it was an investment of time and resources that centered amplifying all voices, ideas, and transparency, while also aligning with a commitment to continue to have strategic priorities center diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging, explicitly.
I applaud the IDEO.org team for taking on this process. I have been in their shoes, most recently as a Board President trying to decide the leadership pathway forward after having the luxury for many years of not having to consider this topic. This is both the up and downside to long leadership service. A solid leader guiding the organization for a decade or more can give the Board of Directors and the staff a sense of security that feels great. On the other hand, it can make having to select a new leader daunting. Wonderfully, what IDEO.org embraced was the opportunity vs. the fear. They decided it was important to test assumptions and brainstorm new possibilities.
Learn more about IDEO.org’s incredible portfolio of work designing for access, resilience, choice, wellbeing, prosperity, safety, health, equity, and transformation at https://www.ideo.org/. Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group’s vision is to galvanize 1,000,000 leaders. Working with partners like IDEO.org allows us to support the design and delivery of their needed work, while also bringing us one step closer to the manifestation of our vision.
Join IDEO.org and Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group. Actively design and envision your corporate, government, nonprofit, or philanthropic sector organizational growth.
Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, LLC is a certified National Supplier Development Council Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Small Business Administration (SBA) Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB), and Women’s Business Enterprise Network Council (WBENC) woman-owned company. The company is comprised of a suite of brands, including TDB Group Strategic Advisory, a management consulting firm, as well as Looking Forward Lab, which offers a full-service learning engagement model focused on Gen Z workplace development and support for their managers.