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What did you learn from 2020?

As the end of 2020 and mid point of my business’s life coincide, I took the time for reflection and here are the top learning and perspective that I want to take with me into the new year. I hope and strive to live up to these. What are your learnings? And what are you grateful for?

  • Starting a business during the pandemic was a blessing in disguise. The lower demand on my time enabled me to go through internal workings of the business so much faster.
  • To have one’s own business is a privilege, and it must be honoured and cherished.
  • Zoom meetings provided greater opportunities for thoughtful conversations, rather than the quick chats at large and loud networking events so I will not make attending these events in the future a priority.
  • It is ok to fail, make mistakes, and learn. In fact, that is the whole point of the journey, the learning.
  • Old wisdom and current friends and colleagues are the best sources of motivation and inspiration.
  • Most people want to help, share their learning, and see you succeed.
  • To live in the Western world affords freedom, safety, and security that must be acknowledged and safeguarded.
  • Covid 19 is nature’s course correction. We are guests on earth and nature has the ultimate power that must be recognized and respected.
  • Writing provides definitive opportunity for learning when you question and critic what you write truthfully.
  • And last but certainly not least, remember you only have one life to live so speak your truth, live with authenticity, purpose, and gratitude.

Why a culture of evaluation is essential to your organization’s progress.

To many evaluation is a nuisance. It is time consuming and a waste of time. When staff gather data for the purpose of evaluation, they often see it as an additional task to carry out with no clear benefit or correlation to their day to day role. When staff themselves are evaluated, they feel anxious and just want to get it over with.

evaluation

The irony is when done well, evaluation can increase staff engagement. Good metrics can crystalize how the team’s day to day responsibilities directly benefits the clients and supports the mission of the organization. When conducted effectively, evaluation is about learning not punishment. Good evaluation is about celebrating success and building on the performance of staff and organization to improve. Under these circumstances staff feel appreciated and supported.

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So how can organizations shift the culture of their organization to one that embraces evaluation and build on its payoff to further develop?

Here are our three main suggestions:

1. Invest in creating good evaluation practices.

There are five key characteristics to good evaluation.

  • Good evaluation is collaborative. Relevant stakeholders are engaged in the design of data collection tools. Furthermore, purpose of evaluation is collaboratively set and the results, good and bad, are owned collaboratively. When everyone has a stake in the game, the engagement and buy in increases.  
  • Good evaluation measures what should be measured not just what can be easily measured. This is done though identification of a logic model, founded on a sound theory of change. Good evaluation also has SMART indicators (specific, measurable, attributable, realistic, targeted).
  • Good evaluation is simple. Although good evaluation tools are designed specifically and scientifically to measure what should be measured, they are not complicated. The design and data collection tools should be simple and to the point.
  • Good evaluation is founded on a belief in data. In other words, evaluation is conducted to learn. Those performing evaluations believe what the evidences tell them not the story they tell themselves. Additionally, decision makers must be committed to learning from and basing their decisions on the collected data. If a program has political will and narrative attached to it, decision makers may not be willing to consider the information. In such cases, conducting evaluation is just a waste of precious resources.
  • And lastly, good evaluation collects good data. In other words, data that is credible, actionable, responsible, and transportable. (CART principle)
2. Ensure you measure performance and capacity before attempting to measure Impact.
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Performance measurements should be informed by organizational values, mission, and vision. This is essential to guaranteeing focused effort and high quality organizational performance. Organizations need to verify successful program implementation and high service quality before attempting to measure impact. Otherwise, the impact measurement results will not be reliable.

Capacity measurement is another fundamental area organizations must assess. Part of this is due to organization’s need to measure its progress to ensure it can meet its priorities. But also, organizations have legal and fiduciary obligations that must be met by conducting various capacity assessments.

Once an organization has established regular performance and capacity measurements and has a commitment to good evaluation and good data, it is time to measure impact. For impact measurement to be valid, a sound theory of change and smart indicators must be established.

And finally:

3. Be committed to managing and leading change effectively.

The knowledge gained from good evaluation often results in improvements and as a result change in practices, services and sometimes the direction of the organization. But change can be stressful. Staff who have been engaged through the process of evaluation, must continue to be engaged in the change management strategy. Staff are passionate and invested and resist if:

a) they do not fully understand the purpose of the changes and

b) they feel they are constantly in a state of transition.

Consequently, it is important to celebrate success, communicate relevant information frequently, and continue to engage the staff.

When organizations create a culture of learning where evaluation is valued and embraced, they can build on their new gained insights to further develop and reach their potential.

If you want to chat about how PossibilitiesUnlimited can assist you in your journey of creating a culture of evaluation and learning, get in touch.

References:

The Goldilocks Challenge: Right Fit Evidence for the Social Sector

Getting to What Matters: How to Design and Develop Evaluations

Impact Evaluation in Practice, 2nd Edition

Do you have what it takes to lead change?

The leader’s ability to lead change is one of the most essential requirements of effective leadership. This is because change is inevitable. Agile and learning organizations initiate change to improve and grow. Other organizations will be forced to change under pressures of their changing environments.

But what competencies are needed for leading change? How do leaders manage change successfully? These are valid questions to ask if you are thinking about initiating change at your organization. Let’s explore this.

New Possibilities:

The ability to envision a different future is rudimentary to creating and leading change. Leaders must have the passion and ability to imagine new possibilities and new heights of success for their organizations. Yet, envisioning is not enough. Exemplary leaders concisely communicate their vision while inspiring and engaging their teams.

  • Communicate the kind of future you want to see. Clarify what this vision means for the organization, for the staff, and most importantly for the clients. Demonstrate how this imagined future ties in to the organization’s values and overarching priorities.
  • Convey how this vision can be achieved. Communicate the what and the why. Identify consequences of not taking on change. Clearly state the priorities so everyone in the team knows their priorities and roles in the process. When people have information, it provides a sense of ownership that allows them to make decisions and decide on the best course of action accordingly.

Exemplary leaders inspire their teams. Inspiring a shared vision, however, requires collaborative leadership which takes us to the next leadership quality to lead through change.

Collaborative Leadership:

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Fostering collaboration, within the organization as well as with external stakeholders, strengthens the organization to transition through change successfully. It also enables the organization to take advantage of opportunities and resources available to it. The constant changing world we live in makes it vital to have access to wide range of knowledge networks that allow for sharing of information and skills.

But how do you foster collaboration?

  • Practice curiosity and hear the different concerns and suggestions offered. Value the diversity of thinking and approaches. Listen to learn and be ready to change your position when new facts are presented.
  • Build meaningful relationships with internal and external stakeholders. Also facilitate relationship and team building within the organization by planning and coordinating purposeful activities. These are activities that further your organization’s vision and values while offering growth opportunities and strengthening teams’ relationships. Facilitating relationships is an essential component of fostering collaboration.
  • Share information strategically and frequently. Share progress reports even if no new progress has been made. As you assess and evaluate progress, share lessons learned.
  • Acknowledge how each person’s contribution has advanced the project and celebrate small wins. This reaffirms everyone’s impact while reinforcing collaboration. Not to mention change can be exhausting so celebrating milestones helps refuel everyone.

Values:

“If you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe the message” (Kouzes and Posner: The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations )

The last element of effectively leading change has to do with who the leader is, and how they demonstrate their values.

Just as values are the guiding principles for the organization, values of a leader guide their actions. For a leader to be believed and followed, they must demonstrate their values with clarity. Stating values requires an understanding of the self and clarification of one’s principles. When leaders face obstacles along the way, their values will ground and guide them. Clarification of values also enables leaders to make informed decisions when there is a conflict between their values and those of the organization.

The literature is clear on the relationship between the values of the leader and effective leadership. Research indicates that it is essential for leaders to be aware of and be able to articulate their values. Without a strong sense of self awareness, leaders are likely to lack the commitment and the integrity associated with outstanding leadership.

Successful implementation of change is directly impacted by the communication style, approach, and values of the leader. Change efforts that fail, because of a lack of effective leadership, can leave the organization wounded for years to come. Consequently, the ability of leaders to lead through change successfully is fundamental to the health and productivity of organizations.

So do you have what it takes to lead change?

Leadership skills can be learned. Accordingly, investing in honing your skills is a good strategy. Still, one’s leadership style is also determined by their personality and values. So gain self awareness in order to enhance and utilize your desirable personality traits. Furthermore, clarify and live your values so you can lead authentically.

If you need support managing or implementing change at your organization. Get in touch. We love supporting organizations reach their potential.

Consultants: love them or hate them?

Consultants, we love them and we hate them. We hire consultants because the leadership team cannot do everything; we need a fresh and unbiased perspective; and in most cases, we need their subject matter expertise.

However, when we hire a consultant sometimes the experience is not at all what we envisioned. At times we feel like the process is actually adding to our workload; leaving us with a mess and a practically useless implementation plan; and as a result a very low return on investment.

Thorough out my career, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of

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different consultants ranging from consultants in the technology sector and international firms to experts in change management, strategic planning, and recruitment. In this journey, I had the opportunity to learn from these experts what to do and what not to do and this has informed my approach to service delivery to my clients now.

At PossibilitiesUnlimited we work with you to promote organizational health and performance. This encompasses:

  • managing change
  • implementing meaningful performance and evaluation tactics
  • aligning your strategies and your day to day operations with your vision and values
  • implementing feasible action plans

When your strategy, operation, values, and vision are aligned, you will witness a positive shift in your organization.

What is important to remember though is that this will require an investment of resources on your part but the pay off will be worth it. So how do we do it?

  • The first step will be to clarify expectations and outcomes. What do you want to get out of this process and how will you measure success? This will spell out expectations which will in turn inform the implementation plan.
  • We will support you to identify your greatest challenges/barriers to achieving your desired outcome. This will allow us to come up with strategies to address these challenges early in the process.
  • Together we will identify the stakeholders to ensure their voice are captured. We will facilitate these sessions and bring you recommendations accordingly.
  • We will then come up with a timeline, resources required including your time, and the time of your team. This will ensure we are all on the same page about the amount of work expected from your organization.
  • At the end of the process we will leave you with the tools you need to achieve your goals. After all, your organization has the assets and capabilities. we are just supporting you to achieve your potential.

As you can see, throughout this process, you and the consultant form a partnership. This requires your time as you know your organization better than anyone else. You know where challenges and opportunities lie. What you need is someone who can help you tease it out, recommend best practices, and leave you and your team with the tools you need.

Once the processes are in place, your organization will have the road map to move forward and have meaningful measurement tools to evaluate your success along the way. To learn more about how PossibilitiesUnlimited can support your organization, get in touch.

So you want to enhance your organization’s performance?

Why some organizations thrive, adapt quickly to change, and retain and keep talent while others struggle or just barely survive? How do you enhance organizational performance and create a healthy workplace where staff are engaged and inspired?

Over the years I have had the opportunity to lead transformational change at different organizations. In one case the need for culture shift was triggered by several external changes and increase demand for high standard of service. Additionally, as an accredited agency we were required to meet a certain level of service delivery conditions, monitor service delivery on a regular basis, and demonstrate the effectiveness of the programs provided through conducting ongoing assessments.

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At the time I was aware that quality of service was satisfactory, but we had limited tools for measurement. I also knew as an organization we had to address some problem areas that were impacting program offerings one of which was related to lack of consistent feedback on performance. To address this issue, I had to first implement methods of measuring performance and supervising staff performance closely and of course this created a lot of anxiety.

Now we all have heard the legitimate advice about hiring capable people, making the job expectations crystal clear and then getting out of the way so people can perform. Fair enough, however, this does not mean you do not need to provide direction or, what is now a no no word, supervision. I have always hired staff based on their intelligence, their potential, and their ability to learn. Yes of course experience and relevant education/training has mattered, but in this age of access to information ability to learn has mattered more. I must say I was delighted when I read Robert Iger’s book, The Ride of a Lifetime, and learned that I had been following his motto of “Value ability more than experience. Put people in positions that require more of them than they know they have in them.”

I have also always tried to ensure that staff have had access to sufficient initial training and the resources they needed for the performance of their duties. Yet, everyone of them, including myself, has needed some guidance and supervision along the way. If you want your organization to perform at its highest level of ability and strive for the height of its potential you need to have the leaders, the feedback loops, and the supervision and guidance mechanisms in place to facilitate it. Much like when you want to reach the height of your ability. What do you do? You educate yourself; you seek guidance and advice from friends, family and colleagues; and you may even hire a coach or consultant to guide and support you.

So back to our anxiety ridden organization. How did I address this challenge? How did I incorporate a consistent and useful feedback mechanism to enhance the overall performance of the organization? My supervisor, the Executive Director, and I decided that what I needed to do was to implement a standardize coaching protocol at the organization, and this set the stage for a number of positive impacts on the organization.

  1. Use change as an opportunity for collaboration.

Involving employees in the creation and implementation of a coaching protocol presented an opening for collaboration. Providing the opportunity for members to clearly identify their needs and expectations supported the creation of a collaborative climate. It also enabled the organization to tap into its human capital and support members in expanding their ability to grow.

2. Engage in team learning

This collaborative approach presented us with the opportunity to engage in team learning. By team learning I mean what Peter Senge, in The Fifth Discipline, referred to “as the process of aligning and developing the capacity of the team to create the results its members truly desire.”

This is only possible if every member of the team practices curiosity, listens with openness and genuine desire to learn, and engages in dialogue. This sets the stage for the members of the team to think and learn together. This supports the team to achieve a new level of insight together that would not have been possible individually.

3. Prioritize engagement

Collaboratively identifying the characteristics of a standardized coaching protocol allowed for the creation of a learning environment in which engagement was encouraged. Members’ involvement in identifying the appropriate coaching protocol and their involvement in identifying how the protocol could be implemented affirmed that they had a voice and were viewed as partners in this process. In other words, for the staff team to know they were influencing this process increased the organizational effectiveness and engagement.

4. Utilize the data and feedback gathered

I used the change process as a tool in assisting the organization to start implementing the changes that staff had identified as necessary conditions for organizational improvements. In an annual workplace assessment survey, staff had identified feeling as valued members of the organization and utilizing their talents as areas of concern that needed attention.

Identification and discussion of implementation strategies for a standardized coaching protocol provided employees with the opportunity to participate in the organizational change process and offered the organization an opening to make use of staff expertise. For example, the first step I took was presenting staff with the option to use their expertise and their different perspectives to offer a variety of suggestions on what the coaching protocol should consist of, and how possible barriers to implementation could be addressed.

5. Stay open, authentic and curious

Finally, and one that its importance cannot be overstated, is that as a leader I had to commit and continually be challenged, reminded, and recommit to:

  • listening with care and hearing what staff were sharing
  • communicating consistently and continually
  • being authentic and transparent and seek feedback and support from my supervisor
  • and lastly build one to one connections with each member of my team to strengthen our relationships

So what does it take to enhance organizational performance?

  • Establishing a culture of engagement where employees’ feedback and expertise is sought and valued.
  • Building trust through communication, collaboration, and transparency.
  • Utilizing staff talent and expertise and building on their passion for the vision and mission of the organization.
  • Having leaders who are committed to accountability, authenticity, listening, and learning from their mistakes. Also ensuring leaders know, in practice, the difference between supervising and supporting their team vs micro-managing and controlling them.
  • Creating a learning organization where growth is encouraged, mistakes are allowed, and change is viewed as vital to the success of the organization.

If you want support on how to manage change and transform your organization to reach its potential do get in touch. I would love to chat with you about how PossibilitiesUnlimited can assist your organization.

Worried about strategic planning during a pandemic? This is why you should.

Uncertain times, such as the one we are living in right now can increase our anxiety. The advice we hear from experts is to be kind to ourselves, allow room for the ambiguity, and let go of wanting to run what we cannot control. These are all great suggestions and leaders need to give themselves and their teams room to breath.

Yet it is important to not mistake these useful suggestions for lack of planning and letting go of having a strategy in place. In fact, during these difficult times, having a clear strategic plan is more important than ever.

Here is why:

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  • Through the strategic planning process, you can reassess your mission and practices. This is actually a great time to review the mission of your organization. Are you still able to provide services in the manner you have always done so? How about post pandemic? What may you need to do differently to continue to offer high quality and relevant programs?
  • Having an aim and a plan clarifies everyone’s role and expectation. This in turn decrease the overall anxiety at the organization. In other words, you can create an environment where your employees know what they are doing, and how their efforts tie in with the vision and mission of the organization.
  • Having a strategic plan does not mean you will have a set of initiatives written on stone that you cannot adjust as needed. In fact, a good strategic plan is agile and allows for modifications with the changing environment that you operate in.

During uncertain times, where fear, anxiety, and financial pressures are building up, you still need to have a focus, a direction, and a plan to move you forward. In fact, you can utilize this crisis to undertake new approaches that would not have otherwise been revealed to you.  

If you want to chat about how PossibilitiesUnlimited can assist you with strategic planning for your organization, get in touch.