In my previous blog post, I highlighted five key questions that enable organizations to better achieve their mission goals through an outcome-based approach to operational effectiveness. I also covered the reasons that leaders in the public sector often struggle to answer them. The five key questions are:
1) What is the mission of the organization?
2) What are the short-and long-term goals that support this mission?
3) What specific activities are required to achieve the goals?
4) How is the team aligned and deployed against these activities?
5) What are the metrics for defining and monitoring success?
Although the benefits derived from these questions for both organizational performance and employee morale are clear to see, government leaders might be understandably apprehensive of the time and resources required to take on extensive strategic planning and restructuring efforts. Our experience has shown that getting started doesn’t have to be complicated and costly. Taking a few simple actions can begin to demonstrate the potential of this approach, capture significant near-term improvements, and generate momentum for further efforts.
To help you get started, we have mapped out four key first steps that can launch you on the path to optimizing your organization and its greatest asset, its workforce.
Start a dialogue around the outcomes and goals that you want to achieve
As a first step, sit down with your team and ask them to share their understanding of the goals for the organization as a whole, as well as goals specific to the programs/units that they represent. This approach requires you and your team to delve deeper than the overall mission statement of the organization and think through supporting goals that are one or two levels below and are often unstated or unclear. Involving your team in this conversation early can help to ensure that the mission and goals you develop reflect the diverse perspectives of those that collaborate every day to achieve those goals. Even if the mission and goals seem clear in your mind, an inclusive approach from the outset can help to secure buy-in for the outcomes and metrics that will define success and make it more likely that initiatives are acted upon.
Map the links between current activities and organizational mission and goals
As a first step, ask managers throughout your organization to identify their most resource-intensive activities and indicate which aspects of the goals they directly support. This can provide a “quick and dirty” assessment of how well the array of programs and activities your employees spend most of their time on align with the current set of desired outcomes. By doing so, you can now start prioritizing operational improvements (e.g., eliminating activities not aligned with mission outcomes) and shifting focus, while also building a strong case for implementing these changes.
Align and deploy the workforce against the right set of priorities
As a first step, begin by asking your teams a simple question – do they have a clear understanding of how their day-to-day activities are directly contributing to the success of the organization? While this type of question can feel threatening to some, the answer can be revealing in a number of ways. First, patterns in these conversations can reveal programs or activities that may not be linked to organizational priorities and provide validation for future shifts in focus. More importantly, encouraging staff to consciously “connect the dots” between their priorities and overall organizational outcomes can stimulate innovative thinking on how to improve performance at all levels. In addition, enabling your workforce to see how their day-to-day activities are positively contributing to mission success can boost engagement and morale.
Establish tangible measures of success
As a first step, ask your teams how they believe the organization and their programs should define and measure success. Creating a comprehensive set of strong and insightful performance measures can be a challenging endeavor for any organization. Rather than taking it all on at once and then dealing with the potential change implications that can result, start small by collaboratively defining in simple terms what success looks like for a few key programs/ initiatives. Then, help the team define where they would need to be at a couple of interim time horizons along the way in order to remain on track to achieve that outcome. This simple exercise arms the organization with an understanding of what you are looking to accomplish and where things should be at certain points along the way. The result is a shift from a constant focus on the day-to-day bumps to talking about how performance is tracking in relation to a goal.
These first steps don’t need to be groundbreaking in their size and scope. If done thoughtfully, these actions serve to engage the entire organization in meaningful dialogue around the mission and how everyone’s day to day activities serve to support its execution. As I have seen across numerous clients, the results from these simple steps can be impressive in terms of improving effectiveness, increasing employee morale and establishing the foundation to becoming an outcome-driven organization.