Management in the Not for Profit Organization

Dedicated to Exploring the Philosophies and Techniques of Management in the Non-Profit Sector

You Demand 100%, You'll Get 100%

A small agency began utilization of a participatory management system.  Unlike some organizations which did so half-heartedly, this agency obtained training for personnel throughout the organization.  The changeover was very well done, resulting in the hoped for synergy.  This bred new ideas and dedication, which led to success followed by growth.


As the agency grew, it became more and more difficult to bring the wide ranging (both in distance and ideas) personnel together.  That is, it took a lot to gather the participants for the participatory management system.  At the same time that the amount of collaboration was decreasing, another issue was arising.  The increasing distance and size were leading the top level managers to feel as though they were losing their grasp on the situation.  When problems began to arise at the farthest reaches of the organization, it was decided that they were due to a lack of central control. The insufficient participation from the branches in question was not appreciated as a significant factor.


The prescription came down from above:  various levels of reporting would be done.  These would attempt to measure quality and productivity.  Deadlines and thresholds were established. If a unit scored below a prescribed numeric threshold, or if a report was late, there were sanctions.  Some sanctions were subtle, but the message was clear:  The minimum thresholds will be exceeded, or else.


The staff who completed the reports- or who were the subjects of the reports– were dubious when the mechanisms were rolled out.  However, the tools were presented as methods to improve the quality of service.  No one wanted to be seen as being against quality.  Gradually, everyone made some effort to comply with the reporting regimen.


However, upper level management began to receive reports that they did not care for.  The reports pointed to shortcomings in many areas.  Soon, the sanctions were redirected.  Reporting in an accurate manner was no longer a focus of discussion.  Instead, there would be negative consequences if the quantitative thresholds were not met.


Within a relatively short period of time the measurements were within the prescribed limits.  Management rejoiced because their approach had worked.


But what had the staff improved?  Their performance in key job functions?  Or, their ability to file reports in ways that obtain the highest rewards and the least pain?  If you were the recipient of the reports how would you know the difference?