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A Blog by Art Dykstra


From My Pad to Yours is about leadership and other topics, and is written by Art Dykstra, Director of the Trinity Consulting Group.

Seeking Proposals for Organizational Improvement

by Art Dykstra | Oct 11, 2017

A learning organization is constantly realigning itself, examining the inevitable gap between vision and reality, and making plans to do things better tomorrow. It is a seeking organization, not just a responding one. New ideas or new ways of doing things are explored and implemented before they are read about in professional journals or shared in “How to Do It Better” seminars.

Learningful organizations are creative, so they anticipate the need to change in a rapidly evolving world. Their creativity essentially emerges from the people who are carrying out the work of the organization on a daily basis. Many of the improvements occur as a result of simple agreements between interested parties. Other changes happen through formal or informal meetings.

There are other patterns of ideas, however, that exceed the model of “Let’s just meet and make a decision on that.” One proven, helpful device is to provide all employees with a simple one-page format for presenting their ideas for organizational change. It is important that the outline not be unnecessarily bureaucratic or overly complicated; the intent is to encourage free-flowing ideas. Having a standardized instrument is useful in as much as the proposal being generated will include all of the necessary elements. A sample format follows.

Developing a Proposal – Five Steps

  1. Show that there is an important unmet need.

    An employee must demonstrate with specific examples that a need exists and that fulfilling this need is critical.

  2. Specify the objectives, the specific outcome which will significantly affect that need.

    How does the employee propose to fulfill the need he or she has identified? What are the specific goals of the program, and how will reaching those goals meet the need?

  3. Outline a plan for accomplishing the objectives.

    The employee details the scope of organizational involvement, estimates timelines, forecasts expected results, and plans for adapting to unexpected results.

  4. Establish the organization’s ability to carry out the plan in an efficient and effective manner.

    The employee must realistically assess the organization’s capacity to carry out the plan. What skills, knowledge or talents does it need to accomplish the task?

  5. Specify the costs anticipated in carrying out the plan.

In my experience, proposals for organizational change or improvement tend to overstate the value of the proposed change while underestimating the costs in terms of money, time and effort. That is why this section of the outline is so important.

Employees need to become aware of the economic side of doing things differently. This isn’t to say that proposals can’t result in financial savings, but too often staff members see only the program advantages and not the attendant costs. Staff should similarly be familiar with the concept of sub-optimization—there are no perfect solutions. A positive intervention on the one hand may create a negative impact on the other.

Creating an organizational culture that builds an expectation of personal responsibility for making suggestions and which instills this expectation into every job description is the ideal for a change-seeking organization. This expectation of personal responsibility along with the acceptance of risk that goes with it, should be conveyed in the initial interview and emphasized from that day forward.

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