Organizational Effectiveness Paves the Way for Agency Innovation and Improvement

By Wareing, Tracy | Policy & Practice, June 2014 | Go to article overview

Organizational Effectiveness Paves the Way for Agency Innovation and Improvement


Wareing, Tracy, Policy & Practice


As we continue to work across our health and human service system to move transformation efforts from concept to action, it's easy to forget that we've been doing so already. APHSA's Organizational Effectiveness (OE) practice, in development since 2003 and now the subject of formal outside evaluation, is such a transformation to the field of organizational improvement and workforce development, in turn helping our members drive innovations and improvements on the ground.

OE provides a systematic and systemic approach to improving agency functioning, performance, and outcomes. The practice complements traditional approaches to leadership and workforce development-linking an organization's work on strategy; structure and culture; management; and daily operations through "jazz-like" group facilitation organized around a three-tier teaming structure and the DAPIM(TM) critical thinking and improvement cycle. The full OE "toolkit" has developed into a 5th edition Handbook that we use with agencies that are embedding the practice throughout their system, and includes an array of planning and assessment tools, as well as models to help organizations operationally define, and then improve, critical enablers or inhibitors of desired progress like trust, decision-making, communication, and supervision.

After years of formulating, field testing, and refining OE, we launched an external evaluation of this practice, gathering data on 37 OE projects of various types, spanning from 2010 to 2012. Here are some of the key findings:

Satisfaction with the OE Tools and Facilitation Approach. All the OE models and facilitation methods were rated as useful. The DAPIM(TM) (Define, Assess, Plan, Implement, and Monitor) model received the highest rating with an average of 9.27 out of 10. Survey respondents rated OE facilitation between 8 and 9 out of 10, focusing on the facilitators' ability to keep the group moving by talking "with" and not "at" people, letting the group come to their own solutions, soliciting everyone's views and drawing people in to the process. They noted their ability to summarize ideas well and encourage groups to recognize their strengths by managing conflict, promoting feelings of trust and safety, and with their knowledge of OE practices and tools and the agency's work.

Changes and Improvements Stemming from OE Work. The majority of respondents reported achieving at least 50 percent of their "Quick Win" improvement goals, and more than 40 percent indicated completing 50 percent or more of their mid to long-range goals if their facilitated work had been completed. More than 80 percent of respondents reported their progress on both fronts as meeting or exceeding their expectations.

Organizational Impact. A range of organizational improvements were identified, including alignment of agency structures, policies, and procedures to increase capacity; a common understanding of the agency mission; and improvements in agency culture, climate, and workforce development. …

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