Priority Agenda Items for Senior Leadership Committees
Through working within the public sector transformation over the past four years, I have witnessed the state of perpetual transition playing out across government departments and agencies with startling consistency. It’s no surprise that within the current climate, staff is struggling with the concept of a clear vision of the future. When everything is in transition, and there appears to be no end in sight – this is a very common challenge.
Knowing where your organization is going, and how you will know that you have arrived there, is an exercise steeped in myths, assumptions and interpretations.
Nevertheless, I’d like to suggest two priority agenda items that speak directly to this challenge. I believe that senior leadership committees can really make a difference by focusing more on the ties that bind them together, such as expected outcomes. Specifically, there needs to be more discussion around what their expected outcomes are, what they mean, and how they will be measured and achieved.
Agenda Item 1: What are our expected outcomes and what do they really mean?
There is so much activity going on and so many outputs, but what are the expected outcomes we are all trying to achieve? This is not an easy question to answer and many senior leadership committees are not fully able to answer this question. Fundamentally speaking, it is the first conversation we all should have had at the onset of transforming our organizations.
Now you may say that senior leaders around the public sector believe that they have clearly defined outcomes. Then the question becomes one of what do they really mean. Take for example efficiency. Efficiency is defined as accomplishing an output with minimum waste of time, effort and skill. The underlying assumption here is that people are working on the ‘right’ outputs and are delivering ‘good’ products. Without this assumption holding true, the entire process of delivering an output could be considered non-value and waste.
It reminds me of the productivity / quality dilemma that many corporations faced during my work in the private sector. Some corporations were all about outputs, and liked to count how many total units they produced. Other corporations were all about quality, and focused on how many ‘good’ units they produced. These corporations recognized that taking the time to focus on the ‘right’ things, actually saved money over the longer term. Not surprisingly, these outcomes-based organizations were the ones that achieved real cost savings on their bottom line.
Revisiting definitions of expected outcomes, and what they really mean for organizations, is a complex conversation that could prove beneficial as a standing item on many senior leadership meeting agendas.
Agenda Item 2: How are we measuring our achievement of our expected outcomes?
Which brings me to the next conversation that needs to take place … how will we measure our expected outcomes? Let’s continue to look at efficiency as an example.
We have all seen the staffing reductions that have been made in the name of efficiency, but how do we know that functional teams and branches are focusing on doing the ‘right’ things? In some cases, we may be completing organizational restructuring without the knowledge that our organizations are actually doing the ‘right’ things. So we remove staff while still maintaining our expectations related to outputs.
Defining and measuring the ‘right’ outcomes is the means to bridging this gap. Senior leadership committees should be discussing efficiency in terms, such as:
- What is our mandate? Now and in the future?
- What core services do we provide? Now and in the future?
- What value do we deliver to our clients and end users?
- What work activities contribute more/less to our mandate?
- What outputs contribute more/less to our mandate?
- What qualitative measures best represent our performance?
- What quantitative measures best represent our performance?
- How should we measure these outcomes? Now and in the future?
Senior leadership committees that are having these conversations and leading organizational change with the ‘right’ outcomes are better positioned for success. They have clearer definitions of their future vision and greater levels of credibility with their staff and clients. They also have a greater chance of success building a sense of team and achieving true collaboration.
Note: For the purpose of this blog, efficiency was selected as an example of an expected outcome. A similar exercise should be completed with all expected outcomes, whereby an organization seeks to better understand, define and determine means of measuring the achievement of each of their expected outcomes.