What does it look like when continuous improvement and innovation have been well-established and
realized in the daily operation?
Continuous Improvement and Frontline Practice
At this “micro” level of change management, the DAPIMTM flywheel and related methods can be easily
adapted to support direct field staff in helping the people they serve through a change management
process of their own, helping them learn how to:
Continuous Improvement and Quality Assurance
CI as an ongoing practice within an agency is either targeted to change plan priorities, to
specific “hot spot” improvement or innovation topics that arise on an ongoing basis, or to the
routine operational work of quality assurance and improvement (QA). Whether focused on case
management or other vital processes within the agency, effectiveQA processes use criteria for
satisfaction and measures of quality that are directly related to agency strategy, and they examine
all of the relevant, informative points in the process being evaluated. For example, a quality
check at intake that monitors and troubleshoots accuracy and timeliness will not be sufficient if
an agency’s strategic objectives include reducing disparity, improving service perceptions, or
connecting an individual or family to a fuller range of services when needed.
Effective agencies establish roles and required skills for their QA specialists such that they are
able to facilitate “micro” continuous improvement efforts with their internal clients, whether that
is for a particular worker’s struggles, a pattern of problems at a particular point in the casework
process, or for the CFSR and PIP efforts as a whole.
The ultimate responsibility for change plans and sponsoring continuous improvement efforts rests
with the executive team. Assessing and building agency readiness for change are ultimately the
responsibility of department, program and function heads. Designing and refining key processes are
the responsibility of middle management, and daily performance in alignment with change and
continuous improvement priorities is the responsibility of supervisors and frontline staff.
Multiple hats are common in smaller agencies.
Supervisor performance is crucial for sustaining change plans and continuous improvement efforts.
Supervisors support and reinforce the effective implementation of plans and projects, build and
maintain staff support and either enfranchise constructive resistance or minimize non-constructive
resistance, and connect operational data and perspectives back to change and CI efforts as part of
effective monitoring. And effective supervisors use the same CI approach and steps when coaching
their staff as are used in “mezzo” CI initiatives.
Staff Perceptions and Feelings
In effective change efforts, the typical member of the staff is engaged in the change process in a
way they feel is important, feels a sense of excitement and hopefulness about the particular change effort underway, and believes the agency continuously improves itself and employs progressive and innovative programs and practices.
Agency communication mechanisms (e.g., newsletters, intranet sites, town hall meetings,
supervisor-led unit meetings) are shaped around key messages that reinforce this. Staff provide
ongoing feedback and a frontline/direct service perspective to those sponsoring change efforts.
Strengths and progress can be discerned through staff climate studies, focus groups and/or action
A planning function well-connected to a communications function is a useful mechanism for
supporting agency-wide change plan work. HR, Training, IT and Finance also play critical supportive
roles in change planning as well as in many facets of continuous improvement, and must be included
from the beginning and throughout such efforts.
Diversity and Inclusiveness
Agencies who are continuously improving do so in a highly participative way, bringing together
points of view from a number of different levels and functions within an agency, as well as from
stakeholders and those served. Innovations and novel solutions are often achieved as the result of
adding minority or previously marginalized perspectives to more commonly held viewpoints. The
dialogues that occur result in participants knowing and valuing each other in a more in-depth way
and listening to each other sufficiently to discover common ground, as opposed to “labeling” each
other from a distance as “different and threatening,” never moving on to constructive problem
solving and at times, breakthrough innovation. These dialogues serve to reinforce the values within
a culture that is able to identify and reduce disparity and ultimately disproportionality.
Data Collection and Analysis
“Good” data are needed for baseline assessment, root cause analysis, and ongoing monitoring of both
broad change plans (e.g., environmental scanning) and targeted continuous improvement projects.
Information services resources must be in place that:
To the extent that an agency does its work systematically and collaboratively, taking the time to
reflect on real-world experiences and the lessons inherent in them, effective knowledge management
and a learning organization will be the result. In effective learning environments, participants
feel both safe enough to be open and collaborative as well as accountable for making improvements
to their performance and capacity. Learning takes place in a well-managed way at many points within
effective change efforts as: