I just downloaded the latest resource from EVPA and Social Value International, released 12 September 2017. It's called Impact Management Principles, and it's a short, highline look at how non-government organisations (or what they call social purpose organisations) can incorporate impact management / measurement into their information collection processes.
Link to website
Link to resource
We're still getting used to the idea of measuring outcomes in human services organisations here in Australia, but the time when it becomes mandatory for many service types is fast-approaching. It can seem overwhelming - you need to plan, maintain, analyse, report. What I like about this resource is that it breaks down impact management into manageable parts, and they've presented the information in a very easy-to-read format - great for beginners!
Don't forget I have organisational review packages running until the end of November - book me now to start 2018 fresh and clear about where your organisation is at with regards to meeting quality standards. Email email@example.com
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Please let me know if there's any other quality or business topics you'd like me to cover in a vlog!
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I might be a bit late to the party, but today I received my usual update from Stephanie Evergreen - data visualisation expert - which mentioned her Evergreen Data Academy. It took me about 15 seconds after clicking on the link to the Academy site to decide to sign up. Now, why would a quality manager want to pay to learn about data visualisation? Let me explain..
1. It should be very clear by now that how we "do" human services in Australia is changing very, very rapidly. We are no longer just 'delivering' services, nor do we just have to 'comply' to continue our funding. We are very much moving towards outcomes and competitive models. We need to be able to demonstrate what we are achieving. Organisations that can do that well will have a market edge.
2. How Quality Managers operate within human services organisations must change along with how are organisations will be run. We can't sit on the sidelines issuing reports detailing what people are doing wrong.
We must be able to proactively gather data about how services are running, and be able to display that data in a way that engages the management team to take action. We must also be able to engage clients and potential clients with that data - therefore, it needs to be accessible and appropriate to our audience.
3. A Quality Management professional should never sit still. We need to be the leaders in our organisations; the people others look to for advice; the people that others consult and collaborate with. This requires us to maintain, update, and expand our skills. I have no doubt that data and how it is used and presented is a very important part of the future of Quality Management. I am, therefore, so excited to be part of the Evergreen Data Academy, and I can't wait to start learning!
Best of all, increasing my skills means I can help your organisation more. Contact me if you'd like to talk about your data at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I'm sure this has happened to all of us. It's usually when someone new joins your organisation / team, most likely in a management role. Brimming with energy, they see problems and they want to fix it. Or they want things to work as they did their last job. So they charge through a process change, implement it without any real consultation, breathe a sigh of relief, and then sit back and wait to be praised.
Have you experienced what happens next? That staff don't fully embrace the change because they don't really understand it, or why the process has been changed at all. Or that there's re-work because the change to the process wasn't really thought out and had unintended consequences.
I feel stunned every time I see this happen, because it demonstrates what I consider to be really poor management and leadership skills. I understand that, as managers, we often feel that our experience knows best, we know what works and what doesn't, and that if only things worked our way, then the business would be better. But to change a process without actually ever having done the process is fraught with danger.
Doing the process doesn't necessarily mean you're the one doing every task. But at the very least, you should see how the process works from start to end, several times, before you start making any changes to it. Why? Because not all businesses are the same, and not all humans work the same. You also need to know that if you change anything, that it will actually work - so you need to know how long something really takes to be done, how many resources are needed, etc - and you cannot know this unless you've done the process.
Sometimes process change has to be quick - but taking at least some time to do the process is vital so that you know that when you make those changes, that they'll actually work. It's certainly better than the embarrassment of having to go back and re-do the change, or, worse still, have the process fail completely.
As always, if you have any blog topics that you'd like me to write about, please let me know.
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The not-for-profit (or for-purpose) sector and its stakeholders (especially government) have been flirting with outcomes measurement for a long time. Sometimes it’s felt like a game of cat and mouse, or ‘will they, won’t they’. The sector’s interest and commitment to outcomes measurement within its organisations has wavered in line with what it’s perceived as ‘likelihood of threat’. This, actually, is not a great way to live, or operate, or manage.
So, can we, the sector, say now is the time? Because now IS the time! It really is! Performance measurement, measuring social outcomes, social impact, social bonds – all this stuff – it’s been around now for a REALLY LONG TIME. And as a sector, we STILL haven’t fully embraced it? Sometimes I find that so hard to believe, because it really would not be too hard for each and every organisation to measure ONE THING.
If I seem overly passionate about this, I am! I truly believe we need to measure in order to know that our services are making the difference we want them to make. We are constantly saying that ‘the system is broken’, or we lack funding, or we need new ways of getting funding – so let’s measure. Let’s show the difference we’re making. Or if we’re not making the difference we want, measuring gives us the opportunity to improve. There is no downside.
So I just wanted to share three of articles / resources that might fire up your interest, if you’re new to outcomes or measuring.
From Social Ventures Australia:
Managing to Outcomes: What, Why and How?
Finding the golden thread: A new approach to articulating program logic
From the Centre for Social Impact:
The Compass: Your Guide to Social Impact Measurement
If you have any more, please let me know in the comments!
I have been a huge fan of Christopher Paris’s work essentially since I first started in Quality Management way back when. His Eyesore 9001: A Smartass’s Guide to ISO 9001:2000 (now in 2008 version) basically saved my bacon when I was a Quality newbie. It was useful and applicable, and it told me that I wasn’t going crazy and that no matter how ISO tried to dress up 9001 as a standard for both ‘products and services’, it really, really wasn’t written for services at all (or by anyone who understood service organisations?), especially human services.
For ISO’s 2015 version of 9001, Paris hasn’t released an Eyesore – instead he went down the rabbit-hole and has written and published an entire book. This book is the most comprehensive drill-down of the ISO 9001 that you will ever read. How Paris made it out of his analysis alive and sane could be considered a miracle (or did he? Someone let me know), as he has really left out no detail – it’s pretty much a word-by-word breakdown of what is, in my opinion, the worst written anything of everything.
I have, since the beginning of my Quality career, been a huge critic of the use of ISO 9001 in human service organisations. I absolutely believe that organisations should have management systems in place, and should be concerned about the quality of their services and how they achieve quality for their clients. But it scares me that governments have written into service agreements that human service organisations must be certified to ISO 9001, and that some organisations are voluntarily opting-in (because they think it helps prove that they’re doing the right thing) when the standard just isn’t written in our language and is still very much “we make products” focused.
(Also, governments, there are so many human services quality standards you can now pick from that you could ask organisations and services to demonstrate compliance to (without needing them to be certified if the standard is from another state). Why waste time with ISO 9001?)
Paris’s book is amazing, right from his documentation of the history of how the standard comes about (which should be appalling to all of us quality professionals), to his breakdown of the clauses, to how we can apply it in our organisations – but (and this is not Paris’s deficiency, but rather my conclusion), his book only further convinces me of the unsuitability of ISO 9001 for our industry. That being said, if you do work in human services and you do need help figuring out ISO 9001, this is the best book you could buy to help you.
PS – this blog post is not sponsored, and I don’t know Christopher Paris and I’ve never done any work with Oxebridge. I just really respect what he is trying to do and I have genuinely found his work to be very helpful to me as I’ve tried to navigate the ISO 9001.
The Chartered Quality Institute (CQI) is a UK-based chartered professional body for quality professionals. I’ve been referring to their website for years—they've got some great resources, including a newsletter and magazine that are usually well worth the read.
Recently, the CQI developed and released on their website a Competency Framework. The following is directly from their website:
The framework is designed to:
I was really happy to see that something like this was developed—quality management may be well-embedded into many industries, but here in Australia, and particularly in human services, it still feels like we’re a poor substitute to some other career. That is changing, and I think that a framework like this one
helps to position us as a professional body.
There are five sections to the framework: context, governance, leadership, assurance,
All aspects of the framework I think are important, but in the context of human services in Australia and where we are heading, for me, the leadership component really stands out. It says:
Uses leadership behaviours to maximise influence and develop a culture of evaluation and improvement.
The key words there are ‘leadership behaviours’. The CQI explains this in detail on their website, but for me it means:
· Are you objective and fair in your measurement of the organisation, not allowing your personal feelings or the feelings of others to influence your assessments?
· Do you approach each day with positivity, and rather than think it’s too hard you think ‘how is it possible?’
· Do you want to know ‘why’ rather than ‘who’?
· Do you have an enquiring mind; are you ready to learn and be open to other ways of doing things?
The links above will take you to the actual framework diagram and explanations of the above, so I won’t regurgitate them all here; rather, I encourage you to take a look and see how the framework might apply to you. This would be particularly useful if you are just setting up a quality department or role and are wondering what it is quality people actually do!
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* In the context of this blog post, when I say project I don’t just mean large-scope projects, but the smaller ones you may do as part of your day-to-day job.
In all of my readings and training in project management, one theme is clear: in order to complete a successful project, you have to do the planning part really well. You may develop your own or use established templates to help with your planning and execution. You’ve built a Gantt chart. You have your list of people to consult and collaborate with. You have what you think will be a reasonable timeframe.
But then…unexpected things keep coming up. Another little project takes your attention away, consulting seems to be taking a really long time, and nobody’s reading that Gantt chart much less sticking to the timeframes. Before you know it, the deadline has come, you don’t have what you expected and you think:
“maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all…”
In the reality of working life, the above scenario does happen (hopefully not too often though), even to the best and brightest of us. I would say particularly when you are working with a large group of people, in a complex organisation, or needing to create anything that requires IT (should note here that I've worked with great IT people; it's the systems that are complex). Should you just brush it aside and hope no one notices that you don’t deliver what you said you would? What can you do when a project fails? Here are my top three tips:
1. Conduct a critical review / audit of the project—if you have done your planning right you should have criteria (in the form of your project timeline, deliverables and quality controls) with which to conduct your review. If you can, get someone independent to help you. Determine what the turning point was for your project; when did it really start to fail, and why? Document what you've learned.
2. What good things can you take from your project? For example, did the consultation part go well? Were you really happy with the software you meant to implement?
3. Now see what you can salvage from your project. Build on what you were happy with and use what you learned from what went wrong to re-plan and try again. For example, if you were happy with the software, but the issue was consensus from your working party on a few things, determine what the top two options are, and give those to the working party. Narrow down your scope a bit if you need to. Tighten the deadlines. Most importantly, ensure that you learn from the mistakes and have a plan for how not to re-create them.
The most important lesson is not to give up. It can be hard when a project is dragging on or agreements can’t be reached, but that’s where you need to have a solid project plan and vision of the result.
Oh, and always document everything. You should (at the least) document all changes, scope-creep, and things that have gone wrong.
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Once you’ve established your quality management system on a continual improvement framework and put the word out that your stakeholders (e.g. employees, clients) can raise a suggestion, you will have them coming at you from all directions.
Now, getting lots of ideas and suggestions is a really good thing. But, it is not always possible to implement every idea. There may be financial restrictions, the idea doesn’t work within program guidelines, or maybe it just doesn’t suit your organisation or your clients. How, then, do you say ‘no’ without it coming across too harsh? After all, we don’t want to discourage people from making suggestions. Here are my tips for how to say ‘no’ to an idea.
1. First and foremost, always thank the person who raised the idea, no matter what you think of it. Just because this idea won’t work, doesn’t mean that a future one wouldn’t, so we always want to make sure that people feel comfortable to speak out.
2. Get back to people in a reasonable timeframe—and by that I mean in less than two weeks, wherever possible. If you can’t give a definite answer in that timeframe then always give progress updates. Remember, the relationships you have with people is the most important thing in our quality management profession. Saying ‘no’ after saying nothing for two months is bad customer service, and there is no
excuse for this, full stop.
3. Always give a reason why—it doesn’t have to be in-depth, but it should be honest (to a point, you do have to stay professional!). For example: “Unfortunately we’re not able to implement your suggestion at this point because our budget has been allocated for the rest of the year to other activities in our client
4. Do provide an alternative where possible. Ideas can be similar and if you’ve recently implemented an idea that is like the one you’re saying ‘no’ to, make sure you let the person know, for example: “Although we’re not able to implement your idea about having a coffee machine installed in the activities area, we have recently engaged a coffee van to come every morning, starting from next week.”
5. Close with another thank you, and leave the door open for other suggestions and ideas.
In a quality management career, you will hear a lot of ideas, both good and (sometimes!) not-so-good. I love ideas because it means that the people raising them care enough about the organisation and the service to want to help and try to improve it—so I always want to see a lot of ideas coming through! Staying
positive about all ideas will come through to your stakeholders and make a ‘no’ sound positive too.
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