Managing a social service organisation isn’t as simple as it may appear on the surface. These are complex systems that cater to the needs of multiple stakeholders, they are political organisations, they are value driven and they are held accountable through a complex web of funding contracts, donor expectations and public scrutiny. Often they are significant businesses, spending millions of dollars on social services and employing large numbers of people. Organisations comprise building blocks that serve as a strong foundation. When any part of the foundation falters, the entire organisation is placed at risk.
Managers of commercial businesses are judged on a single criteria, that is how do they contribute to profitability and shareholder returns. A number of charities and social service providers also operate commercial businesses in addition to providing healthcare and community services.
In any social service organisation there are key areas of operational excellence necessary to ensure ongoing sustainability. These are;
- Effective Leadership
- Good Decision Making
- The Right People
- Systems and processes
- The Right Culture
Effective leaders work together as a cohesive, unified team. They have a single message, they clearly state that message and every action they take reinforces that message. Silo management is minimised and they support each other. The CEO or Executive Director has an extra, very important role; that being to define and project a clear vision of the future direction of the organisation. Nothing contributes more to mediocrity than a lack of vision.
Every one within an organisation must have a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities, they must clearly understand what is expected of them and how they will be held accountable. The way tasks are allocated and completed should be consistent with progressing the vision and strategic direction.
The right people should be hired and everything practical should be done for those people to build a great work experience. In that way turnover will be minimal and this helps build a great culture and helps maintain client satisfaction. The role of management should be to remove barriers that prevent people from doing their job well, and also to place people into roles that are stimulating, interesting and help the employee develop greater competencies. This enables the employee to add value.
The key to creating a great employee experience is to systemise work as much as possible. Far better to have less employees, with 100% job satisfaction than to have people bored out of their brains doing mundane, uninteresting work. These people become destructive.
Everyone hates policies and procedures, however without them chaos and self-interest reigns. Without policies to guide how people are expected to behave, then they will do their own thing, for their own reasons. It is very difficult to hold people accountable if they havent been provided with guidelines on acceptable behaviour. A lack of policies and procedures will make any managers role untenable and lead to a lack of people wanting to assume leadership roles.
Last, but not least it is important to build the right organisational culture. This must be a part of the leadership vision and it starts at the top. If the CEO and management are not seen to mirror the cultural expectations then people cannot be expected to live them also. Culture is more than slogans. It is the way you choose to do things. It is how people relate to, and behave towards each other.
All five of these aspects are interrelated and interconnected. If you feel your organisation is not quiet right it is pointless focussing upon one area only. Any change in one part of the organisation will impact upon other parts. Any breakdown in one part will impact upon other parts. Invariably, restoring an organisation to a good place will involve changes to all these five areas.
A good place to start is by downloading my FREE quick health check for social service agencies. This no-obligation tool will take only a few minutes to complete but will provide you with a broad insight into where you need to work upon the structure, operations and culture within your organisation.
John Coxon has been advising and guiding management teams in social service agencies for the past two decades. John has experience guiding capacity building and competency development through his building block assessment toolkit. It costs nothing to email John to seek a free, no-obligation discussion. The framework outlined above was adapted from one developed by Bain & Co.