Keystone Accountability believes that as well as harnessing feedback from the people you serve, internal feedback is essential in high-performing organizations. Here are some questions to ask yourself, to see whether you could use some support in creating a team that can ultimately be a high-performing learning organization.
- Is your team comfortable talking about problems and disagreeing? Do they welcome differences of opinion? Do you have a process for acknowledging them at some points and addressing them later as the focus of another discussion?
- Is there a process for testing ideas? Do you do experiments to test assumptions?
- Do you track “competitors”, search for possible collaborators, and consider trends among both groups in your planning?
- Does anything besides technology come to mind when you hear the word “innovation”? Program model, process, dialogue, leadership styles, and learning should also be areas of innovation.
- Do your goals have two parts? There’s what you are trying to accomplish within a given time period, but that goal should also be defined in the short term relative to what is feasible to do, given what others are doing with similar resources. If all your goals are aspirational, you need a consultant and you need reference points, performance benchmarks, and an understanding of “community norms” for the context you work in.
- Do new people get training? Is there a guide, and has it been updated in the last three years. Documents should be living.
- Do members of your team take on bigger roles and get paid more over time? There should be a career ladder, or at least a career stepping stool with more than one step.
- Do you regularly share with networks of experts outside the organization? Do you write blogs, papers or newsletters and consider this part of learning?
- Do managers ask probing questions? Do they listen?
- Does your team find dialogue with community members difficult? Do they struggle to get people to respond to requests for feedback in various ways? These are symptoms of failing systems and management inside your organization. People affected by your work don’t just start out being apathetic. They are conditioned into apathy by your own orientation towards them from day one. This is something you can fix.
- Do you review past projects? A frequent deficit I see in organizations is a lack of interest in “after action reviews”. This is where you have an honest, penetrating, open conversation about something you tried and decide whether it worked, and what parts didn’t work, and why. This should be standard learning procedure. It shouldn’t take a lot of time or money, and should be covered inside project budgets. For example, Keystone has taught an online course on feedback practice twice now. Before we teach it a third time, we need to meet and review the recommendations from our last students, and change things before the next time. There is never enough time to fix things just before you start – it has to happen right after you finish, when ideas are fresh.
Start by doing what is feasible. Then try doing a little of what is possible.
Eventually you’ll find your performance improves. If you feel there is room for improvement in any of the above areas, talk to us about how to make time and incorporate these issues into your daily operations. To discuss how your organization can improve in these areas contact firstname.lastname@example.org.