Annual Conference 2018: The Power of Operational Excellence


Annual Conference 2018: The Power of Operational Excellence

By Tom Dente

President and CEO

It was a pleasure to welcome our community to this year’s Annual Conference! While it had been a challenging year, we came back together with a renewed sense of purpose to recommit to our values, enhance trust, and better address growing humanitarian, development, and environmental needs. This year, we chose the theme of our conference to be “The Power of Operational Excellence” to highlight our shared commitment to excellence and to each other.

Even more, operations and operational excellence matter. In kicking off the conference, I mentioned that each of us join the Humentum community to challenge the conventional wisdom:

  • We believe that operations are not just back office functions, but strategic capabilities;
  • We also believe that operations are not just cost centers, but new sources of value;
  • And finally, we believe that operations should not be “starved” functions, but capabilities to be sustained by growth and investment.

Humentum is focused on supporting the four essential operational capabilities of Financial Management, Compliance and Risk, Program Management, and People Development.  Together we have seen these capabilities help make a difference in delivering results for our organizations and those we serve.

During the week, in plenaries, sessions, and individually, we explored how as a community strengthening trust is our core purpose. For us, operational excellence in one word means trust. We strengthen trust by safeguarding funding, information, and people as Finance, Compliance, IT, Legal, and HR professionals. The power to do this comes from each of us. It’s in our shared expertise. It’s in our commitment to each other. It’s in how we care for each other. We can describe this in many ways, but simply, we are a community who believes we’ve “got your back.” In our organizations, as leaders, as Finance, Compliance, HR, IT, and Legal professionals, we’ve got the back of our organizations, anticipating and stepping in to solve problems.  Beyond our organizations, our community of peers and practitioners also helps support and sustain each other each day.

The leaders on our plenary panels spoke eloquently about how our work together helps shift power dynamics recognize local excellence from around the world. We also help expand equity and fairness by sharing practices as operational capabilities can often be a barrier for many organizations to fully participate in our work. In addition, our commitment to operational excellence establishes new connections among the growing range of actors in our sector – from funders to NGOs to social enterprises to businesses. Operational excellence as a common thread and language connects diverse actors, organizations, programs, and locations with new linkages that help our sector thrive. Finally, we demonstrate in our work together that our sector can be best practice for operational capabilities and inspire the private and public sectors. More collaboration and innovation emerge as businesses and governments benchmark and borrow practices from our community.

At the conference, I told the story of how I was reminded of this deep commitment to support each other. Earlier this year, while Humentum was having success delivering externally, we were hitting internal roadblocks, many of my own making: cultural issues, people and organizational issues, and pacing sustainable change. While it was a challenging time with tough feedback, this community helped make the difference for me by sharing insights, advice, and solutions. We made many changes and are now able to do even more for you, but at that time, you had my back and I will always be grateful.

Our Humentum team sees this spirit each day in our work with you. We see the power us: a global network of peers and practitioners helping each other solve their most important problems at the most challenging times for their organizations.  As a community, we echo the language of the famous US poet, Dr. Maya Angelou, to “not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”  The spirit of our Humentum community could not be described better!

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