You probably know about “getting the right people on the bus.” As a Fellow at El Pomar Foundation, Jim Collins’ concept, also known as “first who, then what” came up in daily discussions. This summer, I took a new role at a new organization, and surprise, “getting the right people on the bus” came up again. Only this time, the discussion did not take place in a boardroom in Colorado Springs, but in impoverished rural Guatemala.
In a country that ranks just above Haiti in human development and where only 14 percent of indigenous women even have access to secondary school, I was shocked to hear Jim Collins’ concept. And yet, it formed the basis for a major organizational discussion about our staff and identity.
My organization, Starfish One by One, provides Mayan girls access to education through academic scholarships and intensive mentoring and family support. As a result, we must have a top notch Guatemalan staff to create the “girl effect” in rural Mayan communities. These mentors, the first educated women in their families, are the force that help our 230 students overcome huge barriers to graduate from high school.
When we hit some bumps during the 2012 school year – students unexpectedly dropping out, attendance decreasing – we asked ourselves why. There I was, talking about the bus, the chicken bus as we call it in Guatemala, in Spanish in rural Guatemala. Were all of our team members on the right chicken bus? Were all of our team members upholding our five organizational values - teamwork, respect, perseverance, responsibility, ethics – in their day-to-day work?
By framing the conversation through the lens of the chicken bus, we were able to focus first on who, then on what. It even translates to Spanish.
Darcy Struckhoff is a 2012 Fellowship alumnus. She serves as the director of development at Starfish One by One, whose US office is based in Evergreen, Colorado.