Hedgehog Concept works, only if you work it

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”

Well said, Jim Collins, well said. Jackson County United Way board and staff keep me thinking critically and engaged on the right things.

My former colleague, Natalie, was instrumental in sharing Collins’ Good to Great. She continually brought forward the idea of the “Relentless Focus on the Hedgehog Concept” and believed in The Flywheel. Good to Great has provided the framework for Jackson County United Way to build on our great foundation from the past and move the organization forward.

I’m here to share that these two concepts can change you and your organization’s pathway to greatness.

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Relentless Focus on the Hedgehog Concept is easy to understand by considering three questions.

First, what are you deeply passionate about? Deeply — not lukewarm and not because it is the right thing to do, but deeply passionate? For me, my answer is my community. I’m deeply passionate about my community having the tools it needs to succeed, that families have support structures that provide a hand up, and that residents engage in their passions to create a stronger community.

Second, what can you be the best in the world at? What can your organization do better than any other one on the planet? For Jackson County United Way, the answer was simple: We can be the best at listening to the residents throughout the county and implementing support to meet their needs.

Finally, what drives your resource engine? Where will people invest their time, money and lend their voice for their brand?

Our resource engine was broken at Jackson County United Way. People were not willing to invest their time, and we were struggling for top level leadership. People were not willing to invest their money, and people declined when we asked them to lend their brand. Our resource engine couldn’t turn over. There was no power.

Why? We had lost our deep passion. We had lost our focus on being the best. We had dwindling and limited resources.

By focusing on the Hedgehog Concept, we’ve changed Jackson County United Way. During my time here, I’ve developed an even stronger passion for my community from Brownstown to Crothersville, Medora to Seymour.

This is an excellent county with amazing people and resources.

We’ve seen our organization get better at being the best. We are on the road a lot, connecting with residents and employees throughout the county bringing a listening ear and ideas to implement in order to bring greater support.

We know we’ve made significant strides. People are giving, advocating and volunteering on our behalf. What used to be an unanswered invitation is now someone knocking on our door asking how to become part of our work. The Hedgehog Concept works, only if you work it. It takes hard work and patience. Lots of patience.

Through Jackson County United Way’s Relentless Focus on the Hedgehog Concept the Flywheel is now spinning. Once we changed our focus on our deep passion, being the best and our resource engine — the flywheel started slowly spinning. It took two years because success builds slowly at first but increases with momentum over time.

Our flywheel now includes a strong brand and strong believers.

Strong brand: More people are emotionally connected and volunteering with Jackson County United Way. 2015’s volunteer numbers are currently up 65 percent from 2014. Our board and staff are committed to serving with the community.

Strong believers: More people are giving time, talent, and treasure. Our board and staff committed over $21,000 to the 2015 campaign with 100 percent participation and other people are telling the United Way story on our behalf.

The more this happens, the more the flywheel starts spinning. As our board and staff start to form goals for 2016, we are focused on continuing to build strength and demonstrate results. We want to show the community that we have mission success. We want the community to understand community conditions and that we are focused on turning trends around through prevention, not reaction.

Our role is not only to be a fundraiser but to also understand and communicate community conditions, convene and collaborate on issues affecting the community, and create lasting impact. Jackson County United Way is focused on changing our community, together, with you. Will you join us?

Make a donation to the campaign now by calling 812-522-5450 or volunteer your time with our programs or partners.

Tonja Couch is executive director of Jackson County United Way. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.