Anchors and Innovation | Staying Grounded and Making Change
CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership continues to grow as a dynamic leadership organization in the field of human services. CQL is able to sustain both its expansion and its focus because of its grounding in the Personal Outcome Measures®. This person-centered approach to quality serves as the organizational anchor. With the anchor in place, CQL can ride the waves of the changing environment without moving too far from its core beliefs and values. Good anchors enable organizations to be creative and innovate.
At the current time, however, economic, political, and social/demographic trends are creating high seas of change. Issues related to budget deficits and funding, workforce development, and rising demand for services are changing the patterns of service delivery. The definitions of quality and the role and responsibility of organizations for quality in human services are also changing.
The terms quality, quality assurance, and quality improvement are becoming blurred. Outcomes, performance measures, and performance indicators are used interchangeably. The meaning of quality is altered when the State Department of Licensure and Certification is renamed the Department for Health Care Quality.
This rapidly changing world of human services suggests that we check our anchor definition of quality. My Webster’s dictionary characterizes quality as “essential character”, “superiority in kind,” and a “degree of excellence.” These definitions suggest that compliance with licensing and certification standards alone may not demonstrate superiority in kind.
CQL believes that services and supports demonstrate superiority in kind and “degree of excellence” when they:
1. Respect and protect people
Human service organizations have a fundamental responsibility to preserve people’s health and safety. At the same time, organizations need to promote choice and demonstrate respect for people in ways that are most important to each individual. There are sometimes conflicts and tensions in promoting these two goals, but quality often requires hard work and the right values in the right situations. Achieving both goals may be an indication of “superiority in kind and a degree of excellence.”
2. Respond to people
Organizations require policy, procedure, and operational guidelines. But, compliance with policy and procedure does not demonstrate “superiority in kind” or a “degree of excellence”. Quality in services and supports flows from responsiveness to each person served.
3. Manage organizational change around people served
Organizational policy and procedures may be static, program regulation may be etched in concrete, but people grow and develop. Interests change. People may simply change their minds. Organizations need to figure out how to recast programs around people’s changing priorities. Organizations are challenged to change resources, organizational structure and staffing and supports to keep up with the people they support.
4. Provide meaningful engagement for staff and volunteers
Organizations energize their staff and volunteers when they center services and supports in the context of personal outcomes. Teaching activity of daily living skills or communication skills are important and meaningful. These habilitation and rehabilitation activities may be required for licensure and certification. But teaching those skills becomes energizing and rewarding to staff and volunteers when they see the connection of their work with the realization of personal outcomes – having friends, getting a job, or participating in the life of the community. Placing services and supports in the context of facilitating personal outcomes demonstrates the “essential character” of a quality organization.
5. Demonstrate accountability
Citizens, elected officials, and administrators need evidence that supports and services address the real needs and concerns of people with disabilities. In a time of economic downturn and budget deficits, organizations must demonstrate that they are making a difference and not engaging in organizational processes as an end in themselves. In addition, organizations must show that they are using the most cost effective supports and services to facilitate people’s outcomes. It’s not enough to do a good job. Organizations have a responsibility to prove to the general public, elected officials, and agency administrators that they are good stewards of limited resources.
In closing, use these five characteristics to help determine whether services and supports deserve the accolade of quality “essential character,” “superiority in kind,” and a “degree of excellence.”
James Gardner, Ph.D.
Former President and Chief Executive Officer, CQL
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