Taking Your Organization's Pulse


Factsheet - ISSN 1198-712X   -   Copyright Queen's Printer for Ontario
Agdex#: 057
Publication Date: 01/94
Order#: 94-005
Last Reviewed: 11/97
History: January 1994
Written by: Rob Black - OMAFRA

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Organizational Purpose
  3. Planning
  4. Implementing
  5. Evaluation
  6. Managing Relationships
  7. Motivation
  8. Providing Resources
  9. Developing Competency
  10. References  

Introduction

Like healthy people, healthy organizations feel better and get more done. When an organization functions poorly, check for signs of trouble by taking your organization's pulse.

Volunteers carry out eight basic organizational processes to keep an organization fit. Whether they occur in formal or informal ways, the quality of the organization's lifestyle depends on how these processes are managed. When an organization becomes unfit, it may be due to lack of attention to any of these eight basic processes.

Organizational Purpose

Every organization exists for a purpose, but over time this purpose may become lost or irrelevant. The organization and its members also have needs. Organizations quickly deteriorate when they fail to meet a relevant purpose, or overlook the needs of both members and the community. A healthy organization periodically asks the following questions:

  • Are we still relevant?
  • Do our members, clients, and community people still need us in the way that they used to?
  • Are we gathering information from members, clients and the community about their needs, wants and preferences?

Planning

Once the needs of an organization are identified, a thorough and complete plan should be developed. Long range strategic planning and short term planning are necessary to keep the organization on track. Plans must state what objectives are to be achieved, how the outcomes will be reached, what tasks are to be done, who will do them, and when they will be done. The healthy organization asks the following questions of itself, and responds with "yes."

  • Are our purposes and priorities clear?
  • Do we plan how we will conduct our meetings?
  • Do our plans set out clear and measurable objectives?
  • Do our plans identify tasks to be done and are they realistic?

Implementing

Plans have been made. Are they carried out? Do committees and individuals complete the required tasks? Are the various committees' efforts co-ordinated effectively - with a sharing of information? Are volunteers aware of each other's work toward the same or similar goals. The healthy organization can answer "yes" to the following questions.

  • Do people follow through on their commitments and tasks?
  • Are appropriate people consulted before plans are changed?
  • Does each member or committee know what each of the others is doing?
  • Does the organization use its members' skills and contacts?

Evaluation

Evaluation involves periodic reviews of the organization - its goals, purposes, structure, finances, committees and activities. With the benefit of hindsight, and with a view to learning from the past, the plans, work achievements and failures of groups can be analyzed. The healthy organization says yes to the following types of questions.

  • Once a year, does each committee review and analyze what it did over the past 12 months?
  • Do members periodically assess the strengths and weaknesses of their work relationships?
  • Do members take adequate time to evaluate what they are doing and how?
  • Is the true financial picture of the organization presented to all members? Are the financial records audited on a regular basis?

Managing Relationships

The quality of an organization depends on its volunteer members. An organization that highly values its member's input while placing emphasis on problem solving and conflict resolution is healthy. Conflict is inevitable but can be dealt with in a respectful and productive way. A healthy organization can say "yes" to the following questions.

  • Are people accessible to each other?
  • Do members say what they think and feel in a way that helps solve problems?
  • Are members willing to voice differences?
  • Do members talk about their differences and genuinely try to understand each other?
  • Do members make an effort to bring together those who are at odds?

Motivation

Organizations have specific needs. Often, these needs are met by proper motivation of members. The process of motivating is something that happens continually in all facets of organizations. The organization that does well in motivating volunteers can answer in the affirmative the following questions.

  • Do we try to accommodate members' preferences for different types of work?
  • Do we let members know they are valued?
  • Do we involve members in decisions that will affect them?

Providing Resources

A healthy organization makes many resources available to its members. These resources include anything that may help members accomplish their goals. Resources range from orientation material, job descriptions, records and minutes to information on running an effective meeting, speaking to the public or designing a dynamic exhibit. The healthy organization provides these back-up resources and is able to answer "yes" to the following questions.

  • Is a new member adequately oriented to the organization?
  • Does the organization have up-to-date volunteer job descriptions for all positions?
  • Do we have printed materials for hand out to all interested individuals?
  • Are resources updated frequently?

Developing Competency

Healthy organizations spend time preparing members to accomplish their goals and objectives. New people need to be acquainted with the organization and its purposes, while long-standing members may need to be re-acquainted or informed about changes in the organization. The learning process never ends. All members are given the chance to develop personally through their involvement in the organization. The healthy organization answers "yes" to the following questions.

  • Do new members receive special training?
  • Does the organization encourage all members to develop their skills?
  • Does the organization provide a learning environment for its members?

These eight organizational processes depend on one another. They can be pictured like this:

  1. Organizational Purpose
  2. Planning
  3. Implementing
  4. Evaluating
  5. Managing Relationships
  6. Motivation
  7. Providing Resources
  8. Developing Competency

Organizational Process

To see if your organization is healthy, complete the following checklist. Each of the questions pertains to one of the eight indicators of a healthy organization. Circle the number beside each question that best reflects the situation in your organization. Once complete, tabulate your scores by following the instructions.

Organizational Purpose
Question

Doing This Very Well

Doing This Well

Doing This O.K.

Doing This Poorly

Not Doing This
1. We regularly ask the stakeholders what they want and need from our organization and this information is accessible to all members.

5

4

3

2.

1
2. Our organization frequently discusses stakeholder needs and requests, and then plans accordingly.

5

4

3

2

1
3. We regularly ask for feedback from our members about how well the organization is doing.

5

4

3

2

1
4. We are interested in how people feel about belonging to our organization.

5

4

3

2

1
5. We ask for information on what our members need or require to belong to this organization. This information is used by the organization.

5

4

3

2

1

Planning
Question

Doing This Very Well

Doing This Well

Doing This O.K.

Doing This Poorly

Not Doing This
6. The organization does long range and program planning. Purposes and goals of the organization, committees and programs are identified.

5

4

3

2

1
7. We consider past activities, performance, and resources and then set objectives from information gathered from stakeholders and members of our organization.

5

4

3

2

1
8. Our plans clearly show objectives, tasks, responsibilities and target dates for review and completion.

5

4

3

2

1
9. We consider many alternatives before we make final decisions and plans.

5

4

3

2

1
10. When work is to be done, we make sure that the work loads are realistic with the time available to our volunteers.

5

4

3

2

1

Implementing
Question

Doing This Very Well

Doing This Well

Doing This O.K.

Doing This Poorly

Not Doing This
11. Members follow through and complete plans for activities in which they are involved.

5

4

3

2

1
12. Members' work is co-ordinated through a committee or activity chairperson.

5

4

3

2

1
13. People are advised when problems arise in completing plans and activities.

5

4

3

2

1
14. The executive and committee or organization members are consulted and advised before plans are changed.

5

4

3

2

1
15. Members work together on problems that arise.

5

4

3

2

1

Evaluating
Question

Doing This Very Well

Doing This Well

Doing This O.K.

Doing This Poorly

Not Doing This
16. Every year, the organization and its committees look back over the previous year's objectives, activities and accomplishments. Highlights and concerns are identified and used in the planning process.

5

4

3

2

1
17. The strengths and weaknesses of each organization position (executive and chairs) are assessed on a regular basis.

5

4

3

2

1
18. The strengths and weaknesses of our meetings are regularly evaluated.

5

4

3

2

1
19. Programs and committees are provided with budgets and we keep informed through regular financial statements of the organization.

5

4

3

2

1
20. The financial records of the organization are audited annually.

5

4

3

2

1

Managing Relationships
Question

Doing This Very Well

Doing This Well

Doing This O.K.

Doing This Poorly

Not Doing This
21. We keep in contact with other organizations to be informed and share information.

5

4

3

2

1
22. We provide our members with adequate information for problem solving and planning.

5

4

3

2

1
23. When conflict arises the situation is handled respectfully and effectively to everyone's satisfaction.

5

4

3

2

1
24. People feel comfortable to say what they think and feel, in a way that promotes problem-solving.

5

4

3

2

1
25. The roles of executive, chairs and members are clearly understood.

5

4

3

2

1

Motivation
Question

Doing This Very Well

Doing This Well

Doing This O.K.

Doing This Poorly

Not Doing This
26. All members feel they are valued members of the organization.

5

4

3

2

1
27. Members are actively recruited and all members feel they belong to the organization.

5

4

3

2

1
28. Members are challenged and find enjoyable things to do in the organization.

5

4

3

2

1
29. Positions that are hard to fill are examined to see how they might be reorganized.

5

4

3

2

1
30. Members feel they are making a contribution.

5

4

3

2

1

Providing Resources
Question

Doing This Very Well

Doing This Well

Doing This O.K.

Doing This Poorly

Not Doing This
31. We have attractive printed materials about our organization, our activities and programs for clients and stakeholders.

5

4

3

2

1
32. We have orientation materials and programs for our executive, chairpersons and new volunteer members. These are used and updated regularly.

5

4

3

2

1
33. We keep up-to-date records on the organization, programs, activities, community needs, contact people and resources available to our organization.

5

4

3

2

1
34. We have accepted processes for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of committees, meetings and the organization.

5

4

3

2

1
35. We have accepted procedures for regularly reviewing the roles of executive, chairs and volunteer members.

5

4

3

2

1

Developing Competency
Question

Doing This Very Well

Doing This Well

Doing This O.K.

Doing This Poorly

Not Doing This
36. Our organization provides a learning environment in which people get support, encouragement and feedback.

5

4

3

2

1
37. Support and resources are available to help people learn new skills. These are used on a regular basis.

5

4

3

2

1
38. Members are encouraged to develop skills and knowledge to improve themselves personally.

5

4

3

2

1
39. Members know several methods of planning and problem solving.

5

4

3

2

1
40. When new members join they are given useful information about the organization.

5

4

3

2

1

Tabulating Your Scores

Add up the circled numbers from each category. Transfer the total scores to the appropriate spaces below. (The highest total score you could have in any one category is 25.)

Organizational Purpose: ________________________

Planning: ____________________________________

Implementing: ________________________________

Evaluation: ___________________________________

Managing Relationships: ________________________

Motivation: ___________________________________

Providing Resources: ___________________________

Developing Competency: ________________________

Total: ________________________________________

Your organization is doing well if the overall total is between 140 and 200. A medium score of 100 to 139 suggests room for improvement. A low score of 0 to 99 strongly suggests the need for improvement within your organization.

Now take a closer look at each category. A high score of 18 to 25 shows everything is all right. A medium score of 12 to 17 indicates room for improvement. A low score of 0 to 11 means your organization definitely has work to do! For more information contact your local Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food office.

References

Adapted from: Working With Volunteer Boards: How To Improve Their Effectiveness, Ministry of Citizenship and Culture, revised edition, 1984.

Operational Reviews, Path To Organizational Fitness, Ministry of Tourism and Recreation, 1989.

The Board Staff Workbook, Edmonton Social Planning Council, revised edition.

Volunteers: How To Find Them, How To Keep Them -An Action Book, The Vancouver Volunteer Centre, 2nd edition, 1990


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca