Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Planning Now For The Future

Earlier this week, members of Imagine!’s leadership team took a day away from our regular routine to spend time focusing on strategic planning. I have always believed that looking ahead and planning for the future is essential to what we do at Imagine!. It is too easy in our field to give in to the many pressures and challenges we all face everyday and to accept the status quo. I am proud to say that has never been the Imagine! way, and our strategic planning sessions provide a great example of our commitment to innovation when it comes to our structure and services.

In my opinion, this commitment has never been more important to our organization than now. Considering the economic downturn and the funding cuts we’ve had to endure in the past few years, coupled with increasing restriction on what kinds of services can be delivered and how, it is absolutely necessary that we do everything we can to find low cost or no cost ways to improve our operational efficiency in order to maintain the level of quality services we provide.

As a result of our strategic planning and the dedication, creativity, and hard work of Imagine! staff members, regardless of position or role, we have come up with a wide variety of ways to lower our operational costs so as to avoid negative impacts on our service delivery.

Here are just a few examples: we made great strides in improving the energy efficiency of our residential homes; we have developed collaborations with other human services organizations in our area; we have increased our recycling efforts as we strive to be a Zero Waste organization; we have embraced Social Media to our improve internal and external communication; and we have increased our use of volunteers. I could list many more, but you get the picture.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention employee layoffs. Our workforce has decreased, mostly through attrition, but we have worked diligently to avoid any large scale reduction. Why? Because if you look at the statistics, that method of cost reduction is not actually effective in the long run. According to “The Impact of Layoffs on Workers and their Companies: Some Observations and Recommendations” by David Sirota, Ph.D., Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Sirota Survey Intelligence:

During the 1980s and 1990s, downsizings (or “restructurings,” “reengineerings,” “rightsizings,” “smartsizings,” “outsourcings, “offshorings,” and “workforce optimizations”) became quite fashionable in this country. But studies of the impact of these actions demonstrated that, at the very least, their projected savings were greatly overestimated. Basically, the studies showed that only about a third of the companies that downsized gained in increased productivity and profits over the subsequent 3-5 year period. Further, these companies underperformed the stock market over that time: research done in the mid-‘90’s found that downsizing companies outperformed the S&P only slightly during the six months following news of a restructuring, then lagged badly, netting a negative 24% by the end of three years. One study found that, on average, a 10% reduction in people resulted in only a 1.5% percent reduction in costs.

(You can read the whole report here)

Furthermore, according to Sirota:

When the company begins to recover, there will be the large costs of recruitment, performance deficits due to inexperience, and training, plus disenchanted employees leaving for employment elsewhere.

So if we want to look at the future of our organization (which really means the futures of the individuals we serve) we need to be thoughtful about the actions we take today. To me, that means making our best efforts to retain the great employees we have now and to look at other ways of cutting our operations budget.

I don’t mean to say here that Imagine! has identified every way possible to improve our operational efficiency. Not even close. We still have inefficiencies and we still need to explore what we can do on our side to ensure individuals with one or more developmental disabilities in our community have access to high quality services that enable them to fully engage in their communities. But we are dedicated to that goal, and I believe our strategic planning efforts will allow us to keep sight of that goal despite all the distractions and challenges we face.

Then again, what do I know?

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