There are a few more things that “we are” in our best moments. Ten to be exact.
We are always working to raise our awareness and our standards. We like to call it “never stepping over trash.” Stepping over trash in a village obsessed with quality would be a jerky thing to do. So, we are people who keep our heads up. We look around. We are curious. We stay awake. We notice what is happening around us. We realize that so much starts with awareness and awareness is a choice. Other food companies may call this “quality” or “continuous improvement.” We call it not stepping over trash.
Deep down, we know that the power of all of our future growth, innovations, and success rests in the hundreds of eyes noticing what’s around us and imagining ways it can be, must be, better. Quality means following the rules. A big part of what we do is run a food production factory and that comes with a lot of rules for good reason. Quality and safety don’t just happen. They require a deliberate process. Washing our hands every time. Sanitizing our shoes religiously. If it takes being almost robotic in our rituals, we’ll do it. Not because we’ve turned our brains off, but just the opposite. We’ve decided there are some things in our factory we are not even going to think about. We are just going to do them. The children we serve deserve and demand this sharp attention to quality and food safety.
We are on a never-ending quest to find a better way. We strive to keep improving every process we touch. If it’s good, let’s make it great. If it’s great, let’s take it even higher. Don’t settle for less. In fact, don’t settle at all.
“Finding a better way” is not something we do on the side or when we get time. Rather, it’s a key responsibility for everyone in the Village. It’s our passion. Our way of living. Our obsession. If kids are dying of malnutrition, they need us to go after revolutionary change on their behalf. Innovation is about seeking and creating something different and better than what has come before. It’s about creating what author Geoffrey Moore describes as “an outcome competitors are either unable or unwilling to match.”
We’ll get better. Opportunities for us to make a difference are everywhere, and usually they’re found in the little things. Everything we do matters. Improvement is almost always incremental. It’s about looking long and hard at things to make them more effective and efficient. Improvement is evolutionary not revolutionary.
If we keep our eyes open, we’ll see that the little things, the great resources to change, are everywhere around us. These little things add up to the difference. That’s how we get better.
We’ll see it when we believe it. Do you believe it? Then we can make it happen. It doesn’t work the other way around. Affect the outcome. Believing in something means setting aside cynicism. It changes your actions.
In 8th grade, most of us were too worried about being cool and popular to crawl out on a limb and take the public risk of believing in something brand new. The jerks will eat you alive if you make yourself that vulnerable. But, this is a jerk-free environment. So, we go for it! That’s the heart of faith. While many of us hold on to traditional Christian notions of faith, we are not faith-based. We are faith-laced.
We’ll figure it out. Not everything in life comes with a set of instructions. That’s ok, because a lot of life’s challenges just take some common sense, confidence and an unwavering will to succeed. As Woody Allen said, “80% of life is showing up.” We think that showing up every day with a sparkle in our eyes is the best way to figure out the tough stuff. We don’t have any creative geniuses here and if they applied, we probably could not afford them anyway. But, we do have innovators committed to exploring uncharted territory.
We find our way without a map. When blazing a new trail, there’s an adventure at every turn, and getting there is more than half the fun! We believe there is always a solution, even when at first it seems there isn’t.
We are here for meaning, not for profit. Still, some people misunderstand us because of our non-profit structure. They think we are do-gooders who expect to sustain ourselves by keeping our hands out. Others think we are little too business-focused. We are not a non-profit as much as we are a “for-meaning” organization. Profits are not the measuring stick for our success. We measure success in lives saved. At many non-profits, that’s a convenient excuse to pay people poorly. That’s not our goal. But since MANA will never make any of us rich, we each need to chase the skills that will make us great at what we are doing and will improve what we are building together.
We want our village members to become experts. More money will follow. Either because the market wants them, or because the Village can’t afford to lose them. Our village will help its members with tools and training, but the drive to pursue vision with uncompromising passion is up to the village members themselves. There are no classes or training sessions for that. We’ll prepare every village member to leave us for greater things, but hope they never do.
We are characters with character. We aim to stick to the highest standard of integrity, without compromise. The rules on the factory floor are not there for the supervisors, they are there for everyone. Character is what you do when no one is looking over your shoulder.
As the old saying goes, eventually three things always come out: the sun, the moon, and the truth. Jerky characters always end up getting trapped by the truth. Non-jerks are set free by it.
We live like every second counts. Time, not money, is the most valuable commodity of all. So, we don’t cheat the time clock. But more importantly, we don’t cheat ourselves.
Time can never be replaced. Why would we waste it? We will be gifted 31,536,000 seconds this year. Our 60 village members will have a combined 1,892,1600,000. We strive to spend wisely and live like every second counts!
In the village, we always say “yes.” Does this mean that every new idea, suggestion or recommendation will ultimately be met with a big ‘”lets do it!”? No! But, it does mean that we respond to all curiosity with the mindset of “yes,” first. Our bias is to the “yes” side of life. This is in stark contrast to the culture of “no” that is often the automatic reaction received by those who express new ideas. This happens because “no” is easier.
The status quo is not our favorite state. The MANA Village seeks to be a land of innovation, growth, possibilities, ideas, and results. The only path to that place is through openness to the unknown. So we say “yes” before “no.” And we only say “no” if we have done the work and exhausted all the potential of “yes” first.
We take the village life to the streets! Let’s face it, the MANA Village only has us for 40-50 hours a week. Some will say, “This is nice and all, but I’m here for the job and pay!” In fact, that’s what many new people say when they get to the Village. That’s cool. In fact, that’s completely normal.
We know. We all have families, dreams, hobbies, interests, passions, and goals far beyond this village. In fact, if we try to live these “not-a-jerk” principles only when we punch the clock, it will never work. We are not jerks when we go home, when we watch ball games, when we mow our lawns, when we see our neighbors and raise our kids. In fact, if we just forget the MANA Village “rules and requirements” and just live it on the streets, it will follow us here.