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Membership, Mission and Money 

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Sylvia Acevedo is the CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” 

I was recently inspired by Sylvia’s Freakonomics Radio podcast (No. 385, July 17), where she talks about today’s Girl Scouts. It continues to resonate with me, and in particular, the personal, role-focusing mnemonic she uses: Membership, Mission, and Money. 

As the new chairperson for a nonprofit, LEI, I have been studying what makes a good chair. What is my role? In my past I have been an employee, a middle manager, an executive, a sole proprietor/coach/consultant, an educator, a board advisor and a board member. Moving into this new role, I want to do a great job. Seeking out how others pursue this role is important to me. 

Membership means drawing people toward your mission and remaining relevant to serve existing members. Mission means the purpose of the organization. In the case of LEI, our mission is to help people answer questions about lean, teach how lean can  be used for improvement by them and/or their company, and provide guidance to them on possible next steps in their lean journey. For a nonprofit, Money means how to create funds to support the work of the mission for the members, and maintaining ongoing financial stability so decisions are only based on purpose; not dollars.

I enjoy swimming. In addition to the physical benefits, it is a quiet time where I mentally focus on messages such as what to write and what to say on a topic or situation. Recently as I swam, Sylvia’s pneumonic kept coming back to me. Then, eureka, a new insight! These three topics exactly apply to the leader bringing lean thinking and practice to any organization:

  • Membership: How do I get people interested in something new? How can I win the hearts and minds of the organization? Listen to more on membership with Jean here.
  • Mission: What does lean mean? How can we learn? Where will we take action? What should we do next? Listen to more on mission with Jean here.
  • Money: What are the financial implications? How would I expect lean to impact our outcomes? What benefits accrue to the customer, the employees and the company?

Sylvia had piqued my interest, and I did a little research on today’s Girl Scouts. Impressive. I have joined as a Lifetime Member of Girl Scouts. If you want to as well, here is the link: https://www.girlscouts.org/en/adults/lifetime-membership.html 

Also, I was pleased to note that the Girl Scouts mission statement has parallels to LEI’s, Make things better, through lean thinking and practice.

I was a Brownie (Girl Scouts 7-9 years old), and I recall a song we learned: 

“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.”

I will think of this song often as we think about membership here at LEI.


Jean Cunningham
Lean Enterprise Institute

P.S. I find podcasts and other audio presentations very beneficial. To note, LEI will be reviving WLEI soon, and they hope to publish more audio books as well. Watch for them.

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