Thursday, March 26, 2009

Process Improvement for Nonprofits - Part 5: Gather Feedback & Communicate

This is a good point to review the general outline:

1. Diagnosis/Assessment: “What is happening now?” “Exactly how do we do everything that we do?”
2. Analyze Workflow: “Is this the best way we can operate?” “Do we need to do any parts of our work better/cheaper/faster/with fewer people?”
3. Identify Options for Improvement: “Where can we work differently?”
4. Design new processes or steps: “What will work for our organization?”
5. Gather feedback: “Is this in line with the organization’s mission?” “Does it actually improve the way we work?”
6. Test the new workflow: “Does it work in the real world?”
7. Monitor the results: “Are we getting the results we sought?”
8. Diagnosis/Assessment: “If no improvement, why?” “If that worked, what else can we improve?”
9. Begin a renewed effort

Step 5: Gather Feedback About Your New Processes

Take your improved processes to the front line staff who will actually perform them. It may be a tough crowd, but you will get valuable feedback. They do not have to like the idea of change or the new ideas you want to implement.

Frame the questions carefully AND remind participants of the guiding principles. It may be your mission statement, your funding restrictions or just the project goals for improvement. If you have comparative data from competitors, that usually helps staff see where the organization stacks up in a larger context.

It is a mutual needs situation: you need their candid feedback to make sure you did not miss anything; they need to feel that their input was valued and considered, even if not adopted. This will help in the long run as you shift work to the new procedures.

The Communication Plan

This is a good point to remember the most important aspect of any project: the communication plan. Without a consistent, reliable way to communicate the plan, process and progress, your project will be far more difficult to complete. Make sure you cover these points in your communication plan:

Why? Why are we undertaking this BPI project now?
What? What will happen?
When? When will it start and finish?
Who? Who is involved in which phases?
How? How will everyone stay up-to-date on the project?

With a fun way to show progress, such as a thermometer-style graph that you fill in as you finish each step, you can refocus everyone from the fear of change to watching results happen. Make sure the communication is relatively frequent so that everyone remembers how important it is and has time to prepare for the changes that will affect them personally.

You may want to include anonymous feedback quotes occasionally that show a balanced view of the participants. This continues to build credibility and a sense that change is not being done TO the staff, but FOR the organization. Most people will be on board; you do not want anyone to sabotage the project due to a misperception.

No comments: