Posted by: Knightbird | November 29, 2011

Standard Work for Grant Writing

Chugachmiut uses lean principles in all of its operations, including our grant-writing program. Administered by one grant-writer, our system have been though Kaizen and improvement events a number of times. Respecting our continuous improvement goal, we strive to deliver value for our grant writing, which means the delivery of funds for programs that benefit our tribal members. I thought I would write about the great work our team does in this process.

First of all, we don’t write for grants that we don’t see fitting our mission. In the past, when grant writers had quotas to fill, they applied for every grant their imagination allowed for. As a result, we occasionally received a grant that made us do a double take. What in the heck does this do?

Second, we have incorporated our substantive content experts in the writing of the grant. Our program managers who are expected to manage the grants are also expected to write the grants, in a manner of speaking. They do the program development, description, budgeting (in cooperation with finance) and writing.

Finally, we understand that grant writing is not a standalone function. Making a decision to write a grant affects a lot of tribal members and staff-our stakeholders. Many grants require support from our tribes. Grants should also meet their needs, which means excluding them from the scope of the grant if that is their wish. We operate in an environment of tribal self-determination where there right to decline participation in a grant program is accepted. Our finance staff will have to administer the grant funds. Human Resources will have to hire suitable employees to staff the grant. Managers will have additional supervisory duties. All in all, there is a lot of work that needs doing in a grant writing process.

As a result, our grant requisition process consists of “Standard Work.” It starts with analysis of the numerous Requests for Proposal that is available for the work we do. This analysis comes from any of a number of different staff, and is usually facilitated by our grant writer. If we choose to move forward with a grant application, the stakeholders meet to assign duties and responsibilities. All of this is recorded on a “Grant Responsibility, Document and Stakeholders Checklist Form.” The parties to the form conduct a strategic review to evaluate fit of the grant opportunity to our mission. Then it’s off to work by the stakeholders, all of which is coordinated by our grant writer.

When the various parts of the grant are assembled and submitted, stakeholders come together once again for a debriefing (in essence a Kaizen) to talk about how we improve future efforts.

With standard work comes an opportunity to teach to standard work, and our Lean Team has developed a “Job Breakdown Sheet” for teaching. Our Lean Coordinator has come up with an innovative method, based on the Training Within Industry method, to teach grant writing standard work to our Program Managers. Grant writing is just one of numerous competencies we teach our Program Managers.

What is good about our system? Most of all, it is easy to understand. A 2-hour training session makes every stakeholder aware of what it is we are doing. It also serves to reinforce the importance of adhering to timelines once they are committed to. By using Visual Management, we can track the progress of every stakeholder and avoid the unpleasant surprise of being unprepared.

When the grant is done, it’s time to sit back and wait for news about an award. Then a whole new process kicks into play. More about that in another post.

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