What do you get when you tattoo an octopus?
You get Oddo, the friendly octopus mascot who represents the balanced life promoted at Open Door Rehabilitation Center. Each of Oddo’s tentacles is tattooed to represent a key life area, such as health and fitness, community, relationships, and personal image. Open Door, which helps adults with developmental disabilities, strives to bring this harmony to their clients’ lives through activities, vocational training, community housing, and more.
“Our goal is to make every client’s life as balanced as Oddo’s,” says Rita Potter, Program Director at Open Door. “If one tentacle’s too long, he’s not going to swim right, and neither will the people in our community.”
The Illinois-based organization operates with only 6 administrative staff members, all of whom dream up ideas for fresh new programs year-round. Activities for their 130 clients range from arts workshops, golf outings, visits to local fairs, walking clubs, a Random Acts of Kindness club, and more. Because all staff members contribute their ideas and inspiration, it’s important to involve and develop everyone on the team. “We don’t want our organization to be slow and old,” says Rita. “We strive to be young, vibrant, and changing.”
Rita’s staff is small and lean because, as a nonprofit, they funnel most of their limited resources toward case workers who interact directly with clients. With such a busy team, it’s difficult for everyone to stay on the same page. “We’ve got so many things going on at once and our schedules are scattered,” Rita explains, “so we can only get the whole team together for a meeting about once a month.”
This makes it difficult to align the team on what work needs to be done between monthly meetings, and it’s a struggle for Rita, as a leader, to stay on top of it all. What’s more, with such limited resources, individual staff members need to prioritize their work and stay focused on the most important tasks. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with emails and questions at the very start of the day.
The team began to look for a tool to help them put all their initiatives in one place, to stay aligned, and to track progress more thoroughly across many projects. Their tech team suggested collaboration software, and after evaluating three or four platforms, they chose Asana.
Today, the entire team uses Asana to track every program and initiative across Oddo’s eight tentacles, as well as to manage their communication between meetings.
“We use it for everything,” Rita says. “It allows us to communicate as a group more than just once per month. We’ve also pretty much eliminated email, so Asana allows us to keep track of more projects without having to track down email conversations. The time savings have been amazing, and I can start my tasks for the day without first walking into a bunch of messages.”
There’s a team dedicated to each of Oddo’s tentacles, and when they plan a new program, they put it into Asana as a project.
For example, the community team coordinates attendance of an annual Disability Prom dance. They track all planning details in Asana, right down to which clients need dresses and haircuts. Roughly ten teammates need to stay in the loop, so having all the details in the same place makes it easy to keep everybody involved.
If “Disability Prom” is a project, then there are tasks for “Dresses” and “Haircuts.” Subtasks are the names of the clients who need a dress. The attachments feature lets the team share photos of the dresses, and everyone on the team can comment on them.
The Open Door team also uses Asana to communicate and organize itself more effectively.
These days, with Asana in place, team communication is easier and project execution is more thorough. “Asana has changed our workflow and made us a heck of a lot more efficient,” Rita notes. “We can accomplish more.”
“I believe you can’t afford not to invest in technology. Sadly, nonprofits tend to think, ‘If I’m spending on technology, I’m not helping the people I serve.’ We need to get that out of people’s heads! Technology drives so much value. We have limited resources, and Asana saves us time and money.”
With Asana, individuals on Open Door’s administrative team can launch more programs, grow in their roles, and contribute their unique talents. “We’ve truly become a more collaborative organization,” says Rita. “We’ve been able to get rid of the old hierarchy and the feeling that everything has to be approved. We can involve more people and promote leadership across the team.”
And for Rita, who’s preparing to step up as Executive Director of the organization, executive oversight is all the more important. “Being able to follow along is tremendously helpful as we prepare for this transition. It has been rewarding to see the difference we’ve made in people’s lives while I’ve been at Open Door. My intention was to join for a couple of years before moving on in my career. But 27 years later, I’m still here. Staff members like it, and we stay.”
Asana has made a difference at Open Door. And when you tattoo this particular octopus, you get greater balance in the lives of staff and clients alike.
Using Asana wall-to-wall has been crucial in helping Hack Reactor scale. As Hack Reactor CEO Tony Phillips puts it, “We’ve cut our operations costs in half because we’re able to execute more efficiently with the processes we’ve set up in Asana.” And as costs go down, the quality class experience—and the post graduation experience— goes up. Graduates from Hack Reactor are hired at a 98% rate.