More often than not, when I ask the leaders of public sector healthcare and social service organizations this question, they can’t give me a straight answer. Sometimes, I get a blank stare or (frequently) they object to my question.
What do I mean, what stakeholder outcomes are we accountable for delivering? Outcomes are difficult to track back to one source (they often say) - we can’t possibly be held accountable for producing outcomes.
However, it IS possible and, in my opinion, exactly what we should expect from all public (and non-profit) sector organizations. Being able to clearly state (and put your organization’s reputation on the line for) what results you will deliver or enable, and the real difference your organization will make in the world, is the necessary first step on the path to being able to demonstrate your organization’s true value.
If being able to demonstrate value isn’t an imperative for your organization right now, I predict that will become critically important in the very near future.
More and more frequently, funders (i.e. governments, taxpayers, donors, etc.) are demanding assurance that the money they have entrusted to the organizations they are investing in is (1) being used wisely (i.e. it is being used for what it was meant to be used for), and (2) that it is actually making a difference/having an impact (i.e. their financial support is translating into tangible results and outcomes). As funders become more discerning, the organizations that have publically declared and committed themselves to delivering clearly defined stakeholder outcomes, AND can demonstrate that they are successfully producing those results and outcomes, will find that they enjoy sustainable funding support.
Making a clear statement about the ultimate outcome(s) your organization is willing to take accountability for doesn’t have to be a daunting proposition - it’s really just a logical extension of your organization’s mission statement and stakeholder promise or value proposition. Let’s take a closer look.
Remember that your mission statement is simply your purpose – a statement of why your organization is here, the impact you wish to have on whom, and/or the difference you want to make for society/the world. Your stakeholder value proposition is the unique set of benefits that are valued by your primary stakeholder and that you are promising to deliver.
Both of these statements usually hint at the value your organization delivers, however, they may or may not spell out the results or outcomes you plan to deliver and be held accountable for. So, leveraging both your mission and stakeholder value proposition statements, it’s important that you take the next step and clearly state what these results and/or ultimate outcome(s) will be.
When I am working with an organization to create their strategy map, the pinnacle strategic objective, at the very top of the strategy map, is usually where we place this ultimate outcome objective/statement. For public and non-profit sector organizations it’s usually at the top of the stakeholder/stakeholder outcomes perspective on their strategy map.
To determine your ultimate stakeholder outcome objective, you and your team need to ask and answer a few important questions:
1 What ultimate outcome are our stakeholders (all stakeholders – not just your primary stakeholder or your funder) united behind/do they all wish to see produced?
2 What is our contribution to the achievement of this ultimate outcome?
3 What could we reasonably be held accountable for delivering or producing, given our sphere of influence, that aligns with, directly supports, or actually is this ultimate outcome?
4 If we committed to delivering this outcome, would it have a critically important impact on society/the world, our service recipients, our other stakeholders, and/or the systems we work in?
Key inputs into the discussions prompted by these questions include your insights about your stakeholders’ needs and expectations, your analysis of the external environment and systems you are operating in, and, as mentioned previously, your mission statement and stakeholder value proposition.
At the end of a thoughtful and engaging set of discussions, you should be able to come up with a clearly stated outcome/set of outcomes that you are prepared to be accountable for delivering or enabling, that you are confident you can influence (i.e. it’s reasonable), and that you know is meaningful to the people you serve and your stakeholders.
While having a clearly stated ultimate outcome is a key step in demonstrating your organization’s value in a way that satisfies your funders and other stakeholders, this isn’t the only reason why you should take the time and effort to define it.
Once you know what ultimate outcome(s) your organization is driving to produce, you can:
● Orient the rest of your business strategy, strategic objectives, and dependencies (i.e. your strategy map) around supporting this outcome,
● Design your business model, organization, and operations around this strategy so that you actually produce the necessary results and desired stakeholder outcome(s),
● Translate your strategy map into a Balanced Scorecard and measure, monitor, and improve your organization’s performance in producing your ultimate outcome(s), and
● Engage, motivate, and align your employees behind your desired outcome(s).
The bottom line is that getting clear about your ultimate stakeholder outcome drives organizational alignment with, and focus on, achieving this key strategic objective.
So, whether your organization’s top stakeholder objective is Advancing Healthcare for Your Community, Shaping the Innovations and Great Companies of the Future, Continuously Improving Population Health, or Enabling Citizen Self-Sufficiency and Social Inclusion, boldly and clearly stating which ultimate stakeholder outcome(s) your organization is accountable for delivering or enabling is the first step to actually making the real, high value difference I know you are striving to make - in the world, on society, and for the people you work with and serve.