Recently a former client emailed me asking a rather interesting question. He is a newly appointed Police Chief of an organization that hadn’t changed its operational practices, services or employee expectations in years. He asked, “Now that I am Chief of Department, I know the best practices I want to begin implementing, but what can I do to ensure that we continue to improve ourselves each year thereafter? I don’t want to make changes today and then they become the new comfortable practices and behaviors of tomorrow”. In other words, he was asking how he could institute a process to ensure the organization is always identifying and implementing best practices and enhancing employee performance. After pondering his question throughout the day, it occurred to me that this is a question that every department head should consider. I later responded providing the following advice, “Chief, I think you should try channeling Peter Drucker and the seven key questions he recommended all executives in charge of an organization ask themselves at regular intervals.” Drucker was said to have offered these seven nuggets to the private sector decades ago. With modest adjustments, public sector executives can find them just as valuable.
1) How do we rate in customer satisfaction? In the private sector, this is ultimately answered by a company’s profit/loss statement. To avoid dwindling profits, the savvy companies go directly to the customer inquiring about their wants and needs. They also ask if there is anything the company can do differently to provide better service. When was the last time you asked your residents this vital question? Are we assuming we know what is best for them? How do you know if the services you provide are still the ones they want or need? From their perspective, what can you begin doing differently?
2) Are we being as productive as we can be? As does any successful business enterprise, are we monitoring and measuring our productivity? Do we regularly consider ways to improve upon it? Don’t misunderstand, I’m not talking about the establishment of quotas or the number of widgets you can produce per hour – it’s about your effectiveness and a commitment to constantly seek ways to improve upon it.
3) Are we an innovative organization? Are we systematically and creatively looking for innovative ways to deliver services? Are we reviewing worldwide trends in the pursuit of better ideas? Are we tapping into the brainpower of such think tanks as the Rand Corporation, our employees or cutting edge businesses to identify innovative ideas and solutions?
4) How would we rate our resource availability? In the private sector, this refers to the availability of raw materials and any potential alternatives should they suddenly become scarce. In the public sector, our number one resources are our employees. However, in today’s economic environment, very few organizations have the needed resources to do their job comprehensively. But are we challenging ourselves to consider alternative resources, including the reassignment or retraining of employees, use of proven technology, public/private partnerships or community training that could allow us to incorporate resource alternatives given current scarcities?
5) Is our management team being properly developed? In many organizations, managers rely solely on acquired learning from undergraduate or graduate school. But shouldn’t we each be expected to grow and learn more with each passing year as opposed to relying on the past? Do you encourage managers to seek training opportunities within and outside your profession to stimulate their thinking and provide them with greater insight? Encouraging your management team to engage in continuous learning does not have to be expensive. Periodically, it should be done together as a team. To meet performance expectations, continuous learning should be a requirement of the position.
6) Are we regularly evaluating our employee attitudes and performance? Are your training, incentives and employee evaluation components in need of an overhaul? When were they last evaluated? Is the organization providing ongoing information to help improve upon employee knowledge and ability? In assessing performance, how is the morale of the organization? Are you including employees in day-to-day problem solving efforts or simply providing top down directives? An old military adage reminds us that despite popular belief, “we do not raise morale in an organization”, it is the reflection of top leadership. With that in mind, how are yours and your management team’s morale? Are you each setting the right tone and example?
7) Are we meeting our public responsibility? As an organization, what type of public citizen are we? Do our residents view us as being actively involved in addressing community challenges beyond our organizational mission or purpose? Are we viewed as part of the problem or solution? Are we actively involved in helping to better the community? Do we participate in such programs as Habitat for Humanity? Are we helping to reduce the community’s carbon footprint? Are we encouraging healthier lifestyles by establishing or volunteering at community vegetable gardens in low-income areas?
By asking these seven questions at regular intervals, you can quickly dismantle the organization’s comfort zones and transform it into a vibrant, healthy, value added entity that thrives on continuous learning. Your organization will be the one that is looked to for best practices!