This leadership principle is part of the Organizational Health series: 15 principles that relate to the overall health of your organization. Other Human Systems Leadership Principles are contained in the Change Management, Community Embedding, Mutual Empowerment, and Ethics categories.
Just as exercise, healthy eating, meditation, and other healthy lifestyle choices support the long-term health of the human body, the Human Systems Organizational Health Leadership Principles support the long-term health of your organization. By following these principles, you invest in the sustainability and longevity of your organization, as well as minimize burnout and turnover.
HS Leadership Principle #7: The organization provides sufficient resources to employees to reach organizational goals.
This principle could also state that “organizational goals match available resources”. The other day, I saw a Tweet by Bjarte Bogsnes (@bbognes, August 20, 2019) saying that “organizations are addicted to target setting. But isn’t what we really want the best possible performance, given the circumstances? How do we know upfront what that number is?”
Bogsnes’ question provides a nice starting point for understanding how we might implement HS Leadership Principle #7 in an organization. In my work with organizations, I have often noticed that strategic plans, and the resulting organizational goals, are developed by a few at the top of the organization, without a thorough inventory of available resources. Alternatively, goals may be set with a disregard for available resources that can ultimately result in burnout and turnover. This is especially true for nonprofits and public services. Teachers are given impossible class sizes and not enough time for preparation; social workers carry huge caseloads with impossible client contact requirements; nonprofits attempt to satisfy a community need that is way to big for one organization to manage. The result is underserved students, clients, and patients; serious mistakes that can affect the safety of the clientele; and employees’ emotional exhaustion. The following is a general guide to matching organizational resources with organizational goals.
- Take a resource inventory.
Before we set organizational goals, we need to take an inventory of current resources as well as projected resources. One of the best ways to inventory resources, and my answer to Bogsnes question, is to talk to your employees. The best source of information about the scope and quantity of services that can be provided by your organization are the people who are actually working directly with clients. Depending on the size of your organization, this could be a very time-consuming, but worthwhile endeavor.
You can put together a workgroup or hire a consultant to develop and execute a plan to find out what capabilities your employees have and where their interests lie (this could be tied to creating a strategic organizational learning plan). Connect this information to current and projected assets, including funding, partners, and other resources.
2. Determine what is needed to provide quality, sustainable services.
Have your workgroup interview focus groups of employees to find out what they need to make the best use of their capabilities to deliver the best services or product. Again, the best source of information on what is needed will be the people delivering services. Encourage them to be expansive. A good question to start with would be “if we had unlimited resources, what do you think would be the best way to get the best possible services and experience for our clients/students/users/etc.?”
3. Assess the gap between current and ideal.
Analyze the differences between how services or products are currently delivered and how they might ideally be delivered. Of course you will look at funding, but also look at professional development, staffing, workplace culture, and processes.
4. Identify potential inefficiencies.
One of the best ways to improve services and make the most of your resources is to eliminate inefficiencies. As you are working on Steps 1, 2, and 3, keep a record of what employees complain about doing over and over. What problems seem to keep popping up? What processes are the most time-consuming?
5. Create organizational goals.
Develop goals that take into account where your organization is currently, where it wants to go, and what is a reasonable growth trajectory given current and projected resources. At least for the first couple of years, the overall goal may be matching services to resources. You can do this by either reducing the kind or amount of services, and/or increasing resources. If you think you can reasonably reduce some services, think about what you provide that is most important and effective. It is always better to do one thing really well than to do a lot of things poorly. You can increase resources by identifying and eliminating inefficiencies or identifying new sources of funding or revenue.
6. Adjust goals as necessary.
As your organization starts working toward its goals, new information about how the organization functions and what is needed will come to light – this is to be expected. Incorporate the new information into your plan and determine if you need to adjust your goals. Goal adjustment may also be necessary with changes in the organization or in its operating environment. Build in a few assessment periods during the year to figure out what adjustments you may need to make and how it will affect any long-term plans.