By Alina Kleinsasser
Co-tenant Maria Sánchez-Keane helps those who help others: she leads a team of management consultants who train organizations to perform more efficiently and better meet their goals.
As the founder and principal consultant of the Centre for Organizational Effectiveness, Maria oversees her team’s projects and is personally involved in many of them. CfOE’s clients include those from the health, education, municipal, and non-profit sectors: various family health teams, Western University, Fanshawe College, the City of London, school boards, and local branches of the Canadian Mental Health Association are some of the organizations that it has consulted with. Maria’s decision to work with public and non-profit sectors rather than the private sector is based on her desire to change communities for the better.
Maria explains, “I focus on organizations that have a double bottom line: those that are interested in their financial sustainability, but also in creating social common good.”
CfOE is prominent in London and Oxford County and has been involved with projects such as the community plan for street-level women at risk, safe injection/consumption sites, the redesign of children’s mental health services, and service accessibility for seniors and vulnerable adults.
Maria is proud of CfOE’s work. She says, “We see it makes a positive difference in the lives of people in the community.”
CfOE’s success results in part from the organization’s sustained efforts to improve organizations on their own terms. Maria describes CfOE’s process of working with a client as follows:
“It really is initially about deep listening and understanding what the organization is and what it hopes for, and then designing a process that aligns with who they are, where they want to go, and what their culture is, and then facilitating that process to move an organization forward in being able to deliver more concretely on their mission.”
After this initial assessment, CfOE’s management consultants work on areas such as organizational development strategy, leadership teams, and communications planning. Their approach mixes a top-down strategy that focuses on working with people in management-level positions with a broader strategy to secure feedback from people in the community who benefit from these programs.
Maria’s talent for helping organizations comes from her background and values. Maria founded CfOE in 2000, leaving other employment to pursue her own organization. Her history working in senior management for the Diocese of London and working with young people provided the base for the skills she would use to build CfOE.
Maria says, “I’ve always had a core purpose of trying to improve the lives of people, particularly those most marginalized. My skill set focuses on organizational and leadership development. By ‘marrying’ these skills, I was able to best serve those most in need by working with organizations that work directly with them.”
CfOE has been with Innovation Works since the latter’s inception. CfOE’s team primarily communicates with each other through the internet as it has staff from across Southwestern Ontario. The team uses the office space at the Innovation Works centre for weekly meetings.
It isn’t just having a convenient place to meet that Maria says benefits CfOE. “It’s the people that are there and the ability to informally meet up with people and discover what they’re doing and how it’s going, and to have both the resources and experts to help when needed.”
When asked if she has any final words, Maria says, “I’m really grateful that Pillar had the vision and the courage to open Innovation Works for the entire community. It benefits us all.”
Visit cfoe.ca for more information on the Centre for Organizational Effectiveness.
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