Magazine article Policy & Practice

Decoding the Value Curve

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Decoding the Value Curve

Article excerpt

"Talk is cheap. Let's go play."


Johnny Unitas was a highly successful professional quarterback who'd have a hard time even making a professional football roster today. His height, strength, speed, and throwing power did not, shall we say, statistically check the right boxes. Cut in rookie camp by the team drafting him out of college, Unitas recovered with great resilience and resolve against long odds, understanding that actions and results speak louder than perceptions or expectations. His general leadership philosophy is captured in his standard six-word pep talk to his Colts teammates, made leaning against the locker room doorway before many games they would play together, including many hard-won championships.

Championship-level change efforts are advancing throughout the health and human service system today. At the Kresge Foundation's 2014 Human Services Grantee Policy Convening, a meeting of national health and human service associations, the group was commenting on the upbeat feeling in the room despite the environmental challenges we all continue to face. Our conclusion was that the well-conceived actions and innovations being driven today by real-world communities are defying the odds. We see improved performance and successful change being driven by well-planned, actionable product and service strategies, known in football as a "playbook." But plays need to be diagrammed before they're practiced and used on game day. So what's supporting these winning efforts to develop better playbooks and drive actions and innovations around the country?

Part of the answer lies in an initiative that was launched in 2010, co-sponsored by Harvard, Accenture, and APHSA, where agency, federal government, and private provider leaders have come together annually to understand and advance the Health and Human Services Value Curve (see graphic at right). Now when I think of Harvard or summit meetings, I don't immediately think of Johnny Unitas and his adage about talk being cheap. And when I first saw this Value Curve four years ago, I worried that it would result in a bit more concept than action. Even the best designed playbook looks like a bunch of symbols that mean nothing to anyone who hasn't taken the field to learn through action what it all means. But four years later, we see many examples around the country of agencies and their partners decoding this Value Curve--communicating about it more confidently, applying the framework through a range of actionable strategies, and winning stakeholder support for advancing through its four stages.

At its core, the Value Curve describes how health and human services are provided to those we serve at four progressive levels of value, each building from and expanding the consumer value delivered at the more formative levels:

1 At the regulative level, consumers receive a specific product or service that is timely, accurate, cost-effective, and easy to understand. Many agencies and systems around the country are focused on achieving efficient and effective service within a specific program area, and to a large extent this is good for consumers. But we know the value limitations of sending those we serve through many program doors, engaging them within a limited program scope, or focusing primarily on program compliance and related output goals as measures of our own performance and value, whether or not these outputs are having the desired consumer impact.

At the collaborative level, consumers "walk through a single door" and have access to a more complete array of products and services that are available "on the shelf." At this level, agencies with their partners focus on cross-programmatic efficiency and effectiveness, which often require operational innovations like unified intake and eligibility systems, cross-program service plans that address multiple consumer needs, and shared data platforms or protocols to support these integrated services. …

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