The Journey to Become a High-Performing Organization
Family Services of Montgomery County's vision is to create a strong and caring community of individuals and families meeting the challenges and opportunities of life. As a 112 year old organization, the mission of Family Services is to improve the lives of people living throughout Montgomery County. Family Services offers 18 programs that serve 16,000 people annually. A sampling of the agency’s programs can be grouped as follows:
- Programs for Children – Bullying Prevention, Life Skills Training, Communities That Care for Youth, and Truancy Abatement
- Programs for Seniors – Meals on Wheels, Foster Grandparent Program, Senior Companion Program and Project HEARTH (Helping Elderly Adults Remain in Their Home)
- Programs for Families – Family and Schools Together (FAST), Becoming A Love and Logic Parent, Families That Care: Staying Connected With Your Teen, VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance)
In 2007, Family Services was in search of solutions to achieve greater efficiency in data tracking and reporting. At the time, each of Family Services programs was using its own system to process intakes, track client progress and report on outcomes. Gathering and analyzing data across the organization took too much time and effort.
After much research, Family Services purchased Efforts to Outcomes (ETO), a software suite of tools developed by direct service providers and used by over 5,000 nonprofits across the country to track client progress and measure organizational effectiveness.
Family Services knew it had to be able to demonstrate to funders and the community the value of its work and overall impact. To do this, however, meant the organization’s needs went beyond tracking software. For the integration of program data to be effective, the organization had to move away from its decentralized departmental structure. And for those departments to operate cohesively, Family Services needed to further develop its leadership and manage performance at all levels of the organization.
Working with a nationally recognized strategic consultant David E. K. Hunter, Ph.D. the organization began a journey to transform into a high-performing, self-reflecting, continually improving client-centered organization delivering superior services. A theory of change* was developed to drive the evolution.
With a theoretical framework in place, Family Services identified key organizational and programmatic objectives. Client outcomes and indicators to measure progress were then specified for each program.
The organization’s infrastructure was reorganized into three new departments to better align services with the theory of change. The new departments are:
- Early Intervention, Prevention and Education
- Improving Self-Sufficiency and Asset Building
- Clinical and Support Services
Three new department directors were appointed to increase accountability.
Once the software was customized for Family Services’ specific needs, staff provided training organization-wide and departments began inputting data.
Family Services also identified evidence-based clinical client assessment and evaluation tools to develop strengths-based treatment plans. Staff worked to develop clinical, managerial and administrative reports to inform the board of directors and all levels of the organization on individual, department and organizational progress in achieving agreed upon outcomes.
Realization of the plan involved creating a competency-based approach to human resource management and investing in the staff’s professional development. Core competencies for staff positions were identified, job descriptions were revised, individual development plans for employees were crafted and 360 degree assessments for all management staff were introduced.
Family Service is the third of four stages of implementation and is using the performance management system agency-wide.
In the final stage, the organization will continue to evaluate the new client assessment tools, the impact of interventions and the achievement of goals to help inform staff training needs and other necessary refinements. Family Services expect to complete the rollout by 2013.
OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Family Services admits the learning curve has been far more complex than anticipated. The organization has also had to work through some changes in staffing. This multi-year project required a lot of staff and board time and financial resources.
However, staff continues to identify new opportunities to further enhance organizational effectiveness. Family Services gained clarity on the competencies needed for particular jobs to ensure the best possible outcome for clients. Training protocols for new hires are also being developed.
Family Services has been recognized across the Commonwealth and the nation for its transformative work.
Core support for this transformative work has been provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Montgomery County Foundation and the North Penn Community Health Foundation. The entire project has cost approximately $500,000 this far. Family Services’ most recent grant from the foundation of $120,000 over two years will support the final phase of the plan’s rollout.
* A theory of change is a framework that links strategy to performance. Theories of change are useful tools for staff and boards to maintain focus on the ultimate achievement – impact on the population served.