The Big Lottery Fund has just released its VCSE Strength Checker that enables organisations to measure themselves and receive a report against five categories: sustainability, marketing and opportunities, strategy and planning, track record and capability and quality and impact. This will be really useful for VCSE organisations and it is good to have a national benchmark.
Healthchecks can measure different things. This post outlines my research on organisational effectiveness and the healthcheck that I developed as a result that draws on evidence from leadership and management studies, human resources research, systems theory, complexity theory, psychology and neuroscience that focuses more on how you work with your best resource – your people – to achieve your goals.
What is an effective organisation?
All organisations want to be effective, but what does that mean and how can you achieve it? There is little evidence to demonstrate any agreement about what organisational effectiveness looks like; it depends on the perspective of the person who’s judging and the perspective they are taking. For example, commissioners might consider an organisation to be effective because it’s delivering its goals but they might not be aware that it’s not able to lever in future funding, or has staff who are on the verge of burnout. An organisation might be liked by local decision makers and funded well because it is local, but in fact doesn’t deliver the outcomes for its beneficiaries. Other organisations might be good at delivering its goals, but those goals aren’t really the right ones wanted by customers or the local community (they might need help with a Theory of Change!)
Evidence from a year of desk and field research that I carried out indicated that in order to have the best chance of being effective and perceived to be so by different stakeholders, evidence suggests that the following areas are important:
- Knowledge about user needs
- Meeting stakeholders expectations
- A clear plan for where you are going
- Progress towards achieving your goals
- Skills and knowledge of trustees, staff and volunteers
- Good networks and connections and knowledge about where to get support
- Sustainable income
- Making good use of resources
Having traditional organisational policies and procedures in place can help with being better organised and coordinated, but there is a lack of evidence that they actually relate to organisational effectiveness; what is more important is dialogue, relationships, communication, knowledge, skills, a direction of travel based on understanding needs, and the organisational culture that enables people to do what is needed for service users and to spot opportunities to develop and improve.
Would you like to think about a better way of doing things?
Ideas to Impact has an organisational effectiveness assessment that allows you to self-assess, to identify the areas that you would like to prioritise to work on, and to get some ideas and support to implement them drawing from leadership and management and human resources research. It focuses on how you can structure your organisation to get the best from people for example to ensure that people can use their strengths and enable them to innovate and spot opportunities for development. It is particularly useful for organisations that think that maybe there might be a better way of doing things but would like some support to think this through.
We can use the assessment to undertake an organisational effectiveness review with you for example through an online survey, workshops or individual interviews, to identify where you are and provide advice and an action plan to help you to develop. We can customise our approach to meet your needs, including support with implementing results from the VCSE Strength Checker or other healthcheck; for more information please contact us through the details at the bottom of our home page.