Envisioning Good Systems in the Social Space

Bad Tech is built without regard to the actual needs or jobs of the end users (the data producers), but are required because they benefit someone else entirely (data consumers, usually the bosses and boards who need reports and metrics). What if, starting today, the 4 pillars of system design are that all systems should strive to be transparent, generative, trusted, and equitably owned? Read the full article on medium.com.

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Why does everybody hate their office computer?

Nobody should ever have to say, "I’ve come to feel that a system that promised to increase my mastery over my work has, instead, increased my work’s mastery over me." But how many people in the world, when they pause to think about their data systems or the processes they follow at work, would say exactly that? And why, in an era of ubiquitous technology, does a physician in one of the best hospital systems in the world share that feeling about a new technology system he has to engage with?

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Introduction to Operational Improvement

You’ve heard of “strategy” – and you’ve certainly heard of “execution.” But have you ever wondered how an organization figures out exactly what it’s going to do every day to execute on its strategy? Or why so much of that day-to-day seems like it comes straight out of an episode of The Office or a Dilbert cartoon? Or if there’s anything we can do about it?

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Operational Layers: Strategy and Ecosystem

Your strategy - the problem you’re trying to solve, who you’re solving it for, and why - shapes every decision that happens in your organization. Clarity of what the organization does and does not do, and commitment to that clarity, are required to ensure that the daily activities can be performed well and managed for quality over time.

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Case Study: Community Cares Risks Mission Drift as Services Expand

In this case, we’ll consider the (fictional) nonprofit Community Cares, an organization that was built thirty years ago, originally by a group of parents to address the needs of its community. The organization thrived with its early energy, grew professional leadership and developed a strong reputation; after ten years it really had momentum! As the community changed, the organization expanded what it offered, from youth development and enrichment at first, to a broad array of services …

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Operational Layers: Operating Model

Your operating model is the set of guidelines and expectations that allow you to monitor and manage day-to-day execution. The operating model defines what processes are needed to get the job done, but not exactly how those processes are performed. It tells you what role in your organization has decision-making power over a process, who is in charge of making sure that process is performed well, and exactly how they will know the process is doing what it should. In short, it’s a map or a plan that lets the organization stay healthy over time.

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Case Study: College Success In-Sight Dives Head-First into Logic Models

In this case, we’ll consider the (fictional) organization College Success In-Sight, an organization that helps high school students prepare for, apply to, and succeed during college. Several years ago, its leadership began focusing on logic models, which had been widely promoted by funders, consulting firms, and thought leaders…

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Operational Layers: Operating System

Service organizations rely on people to follow processes that result in mission fulfillment. These processes are supported by technology and tools that help get the job done. The capacity of an organization is the ability of all people at the organization to execute consistently, and well. These elements — people, processes, technology and tools, and capacity management — make up the operating system.

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Case Study: Patients at Healthy Lives Associates Experience Disruption

In this case we’ll consider a health care clinic, Healthy Lives Associates, founded to provide access to high-quality care in a suburban community. Over time, it built a strong reputation for its internal medicine and pediatric departments and families asked for more specialized services, in the interest of easily accessible high-quality care for a broader range of health needs. The organization expanded slowly and thoughtfully, in line with a comprehensive strategy and operating model…

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Organization Lifecycle: Early Stage

Early stage organizations are often characterized as “entrepreneurial” and “scrappy” with a “can-do” attitude that tackles every new problem expecting to solve it through pure energy and determination. Organizations that are early stage can face unique challenges in their operations. They should remain aware of the importance of early stage flexibility and autonomy, as well as the ways in which flexibility and autonomy are impacted by operational decisions to standardize.

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Case Study: Learning Resources and Supports Operates with Differing Levels of Maturity

In this case we’ll consider the (fictional) organization Learning Resources and Supports, which provides specialized learning support for students with special needs. LRS started as a program of a large education organization ten years ago, and in the last few years spun off to be an independent entity, so it could focus intensively on its unique services and growth potential. It hired an operations leader to speed its development and readiness for growth.

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Organization Lifecycle: Maturation (or Scale-Up)

Maturing organizations have committed to a strategy and are beginning to document their processes. They are characterized by a move toward consistency and measurement. Typically these moves are driven by external forces — a large grant or dramatically increased demand for services — but are sometimes undertaken proactively when leadership believes there will soon be a big change in external forces.

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Case Study: Soccer Smarts Deals with Post-Early-Stage Maturation Challenges

In this case, we’ll consider the (fictional) organization Soccer Smarts, which provides out-of-school time support to underserved youth, using soccer skills and activities to engage kids in the broader program which includes academic supports. Soccer Smarts had a national program model, operated by affiliates across several states; some affiliates offered just the Soccer Smarts program and others were massive organizations offering dozens of programs including Soccer Smarts. One of the fairly established, mid-sized affiliates was scaling up - it had been operating Soccer Smarts as its core program for several years and serving two major cities in its state, and was looking to expand to local mid-sized cities.

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Organization Lifecycle: Mature and Institutional

Mature organizations have committed to a strategy, have documented their processes, and are mostly engaged in extending their reach and seeking more efficient, effective ways of getting their work done. They are characterized by a focus on governance and protecting their operational alignment to perpetuate their ability to provide services.

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Capacity: Introduction

In the third part of this series, we discuss two different definitions of capacity that are tightly inter-related. Strategic capacity is the overall capability of leadership to ensure ongoing health and stability in an organization. Operational capacity is concerned with the finite resources that enable and simultaneously act as constraints on service delivery.

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Capacity: Budget

Almost everyone has an instinctive understanding of money as an element of operational capacity, and that instinct isn’t a bad starting point for thinking about budget’s impact on capacity in an organization. Moving toward operational excellence means moving away from constantly focusing on the “right now” and designing and re-visiting operations from an “over time” or “ongoing” mindset, and to use available money more effectively as a resource while planning for its related constraints.

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The Process of Quantum Leaps Forward

Organizations want to be at Q.  But large groups of people can't just jump from A to Q.  There's a process. There are intermediate steps.  If you understand this, you can design transformational change initiatives that actually work, and transformational services that have dramatic impact.

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Change ManagementJenn Taylor