I recently published an eBook called Working Hard—and Working Well as a companion volume to Mario Morino’s influential Leap of Reason. Where his book takes a strategic, 30,000-foot look at the social sector, mine is planted firmly on the ground where the matters he discusses so trenchantly come to life.
I began writing this book in 2011 with some sadness, because it is a response to my perception that the American social sector has failed, so far, to live up to its promise. While hundreds of thousands of social service organisations work incredibly hard to help structurally disadvantaged and socially marginalised individuals, families, and groups build better lives for themselves and their children, few do so effectively—and indeed many lack the organisational competencies and capacities to do so (or even to know the results of their efforts, be these good, bad or indifferent). This is a bitter truth, often denied by the sector’s apologists. (I have been a target of more than a few vitriolic ad hominem attacks on these matters—one commentator even accused me of harming the sector by making them.)
To be clear: it is a collective failure—not only of these organisations, but also of their funders and consultants. But it also is a correctable one. That is why, in the end, Working Hard—and Working Well is a forward-looking, even optimistic undertaking with a resolutely pragmatic focus. It includes numerous examples, and at times shares observations that reflect what I have learned with my sleeves rolled up—while working in and leading social service organisations, and as a consultant to them and to funders.
It aims to guide those who are interested in understanding performance management, those who want to learn how to develop performance management systems, and those looking for practical knowledge about how to implement such systems in order to manage outcomes, as Mario Morino puts it so well in Leap of Reason. I think of it as a how-to manual for leaders, managers, and staff working in direct-service organisations to help them work reliably and sustainably at high levels of quality, efficiency, and effectiveness. I hope it will also be useful to organisational consultants occupied in the area of performance management.
A final note: I intend this document to be an admonishment to those funders who demand performance in which they don’t invest, results for which they don’t pay, and accountability from which they exempt themselves. Stop the madness!