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A Quick Tour Of The Book

Chapter One (The Helping Triangle) discusses the path from someone having difficulty coping with his (or her) life issues to his becoming an agency client who is receiving services enabling him to cope better. Concurrently, focus is on a process starting with one person seeing someone struggling to cope and wanting to help and then moving along the Helping Triangle to the point where the person about whom they are concerned is receiving helpful services. This social action process moves from initiation through authorization to implementation. The distress of a few people prompts the development of a complex, dynamic, more or less unstable structure intended to reduce the distress. People help people with the hope the help offered truly helps. The book’s goal is to add depth and understanding to the processes introduced in the chapter, to develop useful insights into human services agency excellence, and to improved strategies for better assuring the help offered does indeed help the people for whom the agency is responsible.

Chapter Two (Leadership VS. Management) highlights the Leadership Team and shows how to complete the steps and activities discussed in the chapter and how to develop the Leadership Perspective from which the Team can successfully participate within the agency’s incorporating environment. Through its Initiators and Authorizers, the agency develops and sustains sufficient resources and auspices to establish and maintain operations. Through its Implementers and Management, it assures services are in place to serve its clients and that those services and agency operations conform to accepted regulations, standards, and guidelines. Through the agency’s services structure and its Providers, the agency works to assure the help it provides is the help its clients need and deserve. Through its connection with and attention to Potential Clients and to those who may refer Potential Clients to the agency, the likelihood people in need will be better able to cope with their needs, problems, and vulnerabilities increases. Additionally, everyone associated with the agency is better able to contribute to the success of other people and organizations in ways beyond the agency’s narrow responsibilities. Only when all participants in the human services community succeed can an individual human services agency make a difference consistent with its full potential.

Chapter Three (Successful Leadership Connections) shows developing successful leadership connections is a relatively complex process but can be Managed effectively by agency staff members who meet the criteria included in the Leadership Connection Assessment presented in the chapter. The Leadership Team identifies stakeholders with whom leadership connections are wanted and selects the most appropriate Team members to pursue the connections. It is understood those connections are exclusively for the purpose of supporting the interests and priorities of the agency and the stakeholders. The connections can be pursued on a planned or unplanned basis and are then sustained using a combination of planned and unplanned contact. Team members are clear about agency interests and priorities, that those interests and priorities are prospective. They are future considerations. Further, members either know or find out what the stakeholders’ interests and priorities are, understanding their interests and priorities are prospective as well. Leadership connections are always for the sake of future benefits. If the Team members understand the prospective nature of their efforts, have the skill set discussed in relation to the Leadership Connection Assessment, are clear about agency interests and priorities and those of stakeholders, and assure opportunities to pursue leadership connections, the agency has and will sustain the Leadership Perspective needed for human services agency excellence.

Chapter Four (The Management Team) discusses how the Management Team implements the policies, rules, and guidelines promulgated for the agency by the authorizing entities with which the agency is associated. Beyond this, the Management Team is dedicated to assuring the agency’s internal eco system functions successfully. These two purposes combine to assure the agency and its staff are continuously mission focused and outcome seeking. Only to the extent agency clients more successfully cope with the needs, problems, and vulnerabilities for which they access services can the Management Team be judged to be successful.

It is not the primary task of either the Management Team or its members to Manage people. Rather, they are charged with successful Management of the agency’s internal eco system. Team members are expected to bring a high level of personal and professional skill to the complex task of maintaining the system’s functioning at a peak level consistent with achieving the agency mission. Team members adhere to the guiding principles and adopt the priorities of cooperation, loyalty, caring, sharing, respect, trust, and integrity as a personal code. Additionally, they fair well when assessed using the twenty assessment questions presented in the chapter. If all Management Team members meet these criteria, the likelihood of Team success is good and that of agency excellence is high.

Chapter Five (Establishing the Agency) explains how we know who agency clients should be and understand the issues and difficulties they are having coping with the problems in their lives. Readers examine the resources and opportunities Potential Clients have as they struggle to cope and appreciate that their struggles relate mostly to their limited access to opportunities and resources other people access on a private, self-directed basis. Attention is focused on some of those difficulties and issues to develop an intervention focus for the agency. In turn, an intervention array enabling agency clients to cope more successfully is developed. Throughout this process, the agency’s stakeholders are engaged at each step, maximizing their concurrence with agency decisions and minimizing dissonance and disagreement. Additionally, a Knowledge Pool is formed and involves participants in assuring the agency’s intervention array and working model for delivering those interventions to agency clients represent best practices in human services delivery.

Chapter Six (Structuring the Internal Agency Eco System) brings forward the working model for services delivery developed in the previous chapter and established as the core function of the agency eco system. Using this working model, the secondary functions circle is conceptually developed, with accountability, responsibility, and authority delegated from the agency Board to its CEO and the Executive Function and then to various secondary functions such as Administrative Services, Fiscal Services, Human Resources Services, etc. The duties and responsibilities required to efficiently and effectively manage the agency’s internal eco system are then assigned to the secondary functions as sub-functions and associated activities. As this process proceeds, careful attention is given to the relative balance between diversity and scale, with the goal of minimizing both. Through this structuring process, the agency internal eco system is populated with multiple elements and sub-functions working together quietly and synergistically. The collective functioning of these multiple elements and sub-functions transcends the simple cumulative value of their individual presence. What may appear to be merely a collection of diverse elements, when managed correctly, transforms into a functioning eco system helping the clients the agency serves more successfully cope.

Chapter Seven (Staffing the Agency) points out how readers can understand the agency’s internal eco system in terms of the elements and entities within the system. The internal eco system is also understood in terms of the people who accept the duties and responsibilities involved in assuring the agency’s internal eco system functions successfully. The best-designed system fails if the right people are not in the right positions, doing the right things right. For this reason, selecting the right people is critical for the success of the internal eco system. The process of selecting the right people starts with a continuing commitment to the guiding principles and priorities included in Chapter four. With those prerequisites in mind, agency staff members expect a working environment where they function with a minimum of administrative or bureaucratic control or interference. They function as self-managing organisms within the internal eco system and succeed with a minimum of traditional Management. Functioning independently within the existing rule and resource parameters is a bottom-line requirement for agency staff membership. Their success is then judged in terms of the extent to which they achieve the expected outcomes. For those candidates who choose to pursue the agency opportunity, there are additional requirements. They must be substantially qualified for the position they are considering. This means they must meet or exceed the high academic, licensure, skill, and experience standards set by the agency for the positions they are considering. Further, they must qualify as a staff member in reference to the criteria discussed in the Chapter. Beyond this, they need to flourish in an environment within which Managers function consistently with the Manager criteria presented in the chapter and in earlier chapters. Quite simply, the agency’s internal eco system is an atypical work environment for exceptional people.

Chapter Eight (Meta Management) discusses strategies for better assuring the agency eco system functions efficiently and effectively. The eco system in principle is self-regulating and sustains its functioning indefinitely in the absence of drift. Unfortunately, drift is an ever-present, unavoidable ingredient of human services agency life. The effects of drift are exceptions in the functioning of the agency eco system or in its sub-systems and elements. The task of agency Managers is to create Indicators letting them know when exceptions are present. For each element, they develop Exceptions Maps to show them, in an organized way, what the possible exceptions are in the element needing their careful attention. For each exception on the map, they create an Indicator they track so they are alerted when exceptions occur. There are various types of Indicators including data, Staff member observation, activity records, external feedback, peer review, reports from auditors and other evaluators, and so on. They create those Indicators and then use them consistently and continuously. There is no benefit to having an Indicator alerting them to an exception and then ignoring it or simply taking a wait and see attitude. They must evaluate its significance and consider strategies to reduce or eliminate the exception to which it is alerting them. Most exceptions are not self-correcting.

Managers directly intervene with most drift-related situations but modify their approach when working with staff members who are relatively autonomous and function more or less independently, are committed to doing a good job, and intend to do their best work, every time. When working with staff members, Managers use indirect approaches, minimizing the use of command and control strategies, preferring to influence staff members in ways to enhance and improve their perspectives and performance. Nonetheless, exceptions require Intervention. The responsibility of Managers is to intervene to reduce or eliminate each exception of which they are aware. Furthermore, it is their responsibility to be aware of exceptions. They often can anticipate exceptions; and when they do, they have the opportunity to prevent the exception from occurring. Through Preventative Management, they proactively intervene to avoid the exceptions jeopardizing the agency eco system and its success. To the extent they prevent, reduce, or eliminate exceptions anywhere in the agency eco system, the agency’s clients will cope better, will be more successful.

The first Appendix includes suggested Management Guidelines for a human services agency. Managers follow the guidelines in all of their Management practices. Further, all agency staff members are given copies of the Guidelines. This enables them to know what they can expect in their interactions with agency Managers. Most of the information in the guidelines is discussed elsewhere in the book. The guidelines are included so they are available in a summary form and more convenient for easy reference.

The second Appendix presents The Ten Commandments of Management. Here, readers have a capsule view of the key elements needed for Management excellence.  The third Appendix presents behavior and strategies associated with proactive managers and proactive management.

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