It started when I asked my kids to try on their shoes and bring down the ones that no longer fit. The next thing I knew, we were deep into spring cleaning. During the process, I discovered a pipe that needed to be tightened, boxes that had not been unpacked since our move three months ago, and piles of bags were being filled with items to donate. Spring cleaning is something we do every year. It’s actually something we do multiple times a year in our house. I started thinking, “How often do we apply that same concept to our work?” Do we take the time throughout the year to conduct a maintenance check on our operations, programs, services, and policies? When time is set aside to do some “spring cleaning” in our work, there may be opportunities to make important and necessary changes and updates that may have otherwise gone overlooked.
There is a good reason spring clearing has become more than just a trend. It is linked to a number of personal and health benefits. During spring cleaning, we create space by decluttering and organizing. Creating extra space and accomplishing organizational tasks have been shown to reduce stress, has many health benefits from increased energy to improved moods. With ample personal and health benefits linked to spring cleaning, shouldn’t organizations be going after the same?
How do we mimic the spring cleaning process within our organization? It is easy to spot a loose pipe in the house that needs to be tightened up, but how do you identify areas that need to be evaluated within your organization?
Start with a Mission Check-In
An organization has to start by remembering its stated mission and purpose. In the day-to-day hustle and bustle of trying to create and maintain processes, programs, and services, taking a moment to stop and evaluate whether or not these efforts align with your mission can determine whether your company or organization is meeting its goals. The first question to consider when “spring cleaning” is to ask, “Does this policy, program, or service support the mission of our organization?” If the answer is not immediately “yes”, then the policy, program, or service needs to be re-evaluated.
How does your organization determine what areas are not aligning with your stated mission? An organization has to have feedback mechanisms and processes in place. Have you ever purchased an item and when handed the receipt the cashier circles the bottom, which asks you to complete a survey to provide feedback on your experience? If you take that survey, your feedback is used as a datapoint by the business to determine a path forward in executing a customer experience. Your feedback in that survey can signal to the company to keep doing what they are doing (i.e. affirmation the process is working) or can communicate that the current processes and practices do not support the customer experience effectively (i.e. alert for change).
Feedback is an important part of conducting a maintenance check. A feedback survey from your target audience can be helpful, but feedback can come from a number of internal and external sources. One model used to collect feedback, called the Continuous Feedback Loop, is an ongoing process that includes assessing, modifying, planning, and implementation.
The first step in the continuous feedback loop is to assess. During this step, an organization determines if its policies, programs, and services align with the mission of the organization. Here are some questions to consider during the Assess phase:
- What measures is your organization using to assess the effectiveness of your programs, policies, and services?
- Are you using qualitative and quantitative methods to collect feedback?
- Are you involving everyone in the organization in the assessment process?
Consider the review of an online course as an example. During the Assess phase of the Continuous Feedback Loop, an organization may review the feedback collected from those who took the course to evaluate its effectiveness in delivering the content. In addition to collecting participant feedback, an organization may learn from those who developed the course that it no longer aligns with the mission of the organization because it contains outdated information or content that does not align with the organization’s values or strategic priorities. Regardless of the data source, the biggest focus of this step is being able to confidently determine if a process, policy, or initiative aligns and supports the agreed-upon mission and vision of the organization.
If your activities in the Assess phase led to recognizing misalignment with the organizational mission, it is time to move into the second phase in the Continuous Feedback Loop: Modify. Using the information gathered during the Assess phase, an organization may need to modify its programs, services, and policies. During the Modify phase, here are some questions to consider:
- How are you using the information you gathered during the Assess phase to develop opportunities to strengthen your organizational practices?
- Who will put together recommendations for modification?
- Are you utilizing internal and external reviewers to determine if the new modifications align with the organization’s mission and successful practices in the industry?
Let’s continue with the online course example. During the Assess phase, it was determined through the feedback collected by participants that the information in the course was no longer relevant. The participants stated the course had irrelevant references, outdated visuals, and technical issues. In the Modify phase, staff members in charge of the program’s content would utilize the information collected from participants to identify ways to revise the curriculum and propose updates to ensure the online course meets the goals of the organization. It is important to focus on identifying modifications that will ultimately address concerns communicated in the Assess phase and help the organization take steps towards mission-aligned practices.
The third phase of the Continuous Feedback Loop is to plan. Once the modifications to the programs, policies, and services have been identified, a plan must be created to implement the suggested modifications. In the Plan phase, some questions to ask are:
- Do you have a team in place to review the recommended modifications to ensure they align with your organization’s mission?
- Have you sought approval from the necessary stakeholders to make modifications?
- What is the timeline by which the modifications are to be made?
- Who will be responsible for incorporating the modifications?
In the Plan phase, modifications to the online course could be reviewed by a supervisor or subject matter expert, and the responsibilities to update and edit the course would be assigned to the appropriate individuals in the organization. A project plan would be developed so each area of the course was appropriately updated and ready for deployment during the next phase in the continuous feedback loop.
The final phase of the Continuous Feedback Loop is the Implement phase. Moving from the Plan phase to the Implement phase means the organization is ready to announce the updates made to any programs, services, or policies. During the Implement phase, an organization should consider some of the following questions:
- Have you shared the detailed plans to remove, implement, or modify any programs, policies, or services?
- Does everyone know the “why” behind implementing the updated, or removed, programs, policies, or services?
- Who is responsible for ensuring every aspect of the organization is aware of the updates?
- What steps are in place to assess the new programs, policies, or services?
In the scenario of the online course, during the Implement phase the online course would be ready to launch. A launch date would be set and announced to those who would be taking the course. It is important to communicate with those who are taking the course how they can continue to ‘assess’ it by providing feedback thus ensuring the feedback loop continues.
Just as you would not want a loose pipe in your house to go unnoticed, organizations should not let their programs, policies, and services go unchecked throughout the year. Continual refinement helps ensure an organization can operate at its fullest potential. It is important for the mission of an organization to be present in everything an organization does because when that happens “spring cleaning” does not just happen once a year but occurs regularly. Using the Continuous Feedback Loop model can assist an organization in ensuring the mission is embedded in programs, policies, and services. It allows for regular updates or edits as needed when those programs, policies, and services no longer align.
The Continuous Feedback Loop helps organizations become comfortable with making important changes to elevate performance and ultimately be better. Plaid provides many services to assist organizations with mission alignment. From our research and data strategies to content design and facilitation, our team of expert consultants can provide assistance during each phase of the continuous feedback loop. For more information, please contact a member of the Plaid team.