There is often a tendency to think that any problems within an organisation can be resolved, or any desired improvements made, with the application of a new process or the implementation of a shiny new piece of software. While understandable, this is potentially problematic. Because organisations are not about systems, processes and software – they are about people.
Without people, your organisation would be nothing. Your management team, your staff, your customers, your service users, your funders, your partners, your supporters and many more besides all collectively make your organisation what it is. So if you need to sort out a problem or improve some aspect of the organisation’s performance, it pays to think first and foremost about people.
If you are seeking to develop a new service, for example, or to improve an existing one, then ask your service users what they need and what they do not. If you have to cut costs, ask your teams how they could do things more efficiently or what aspects of the service are least critical to what they are trying to achieve. Then – and this is the important bit – listen very carefully to what they have to say.
When you take decisions, think not just about what impact they will have on the budget, but also about the impact that they will have on the people involved. Understand how your decisions will affect your team or your service users or your partners. Listen to the suggestions or concerns that they have. Get them involved in the decision making process. This makes for better decisions and greater commitment to implementing them.
In my experience, every problem in an organisation is a people problem. This does not mean that people are the cause of the problem, but it does mean that they are invariably the solution. New services will only work if people use them. The best new ideas will only be successful if they have the support of those implementing them. And organisations can only operate effectively if the people within them are engaged and committed.
But people are not units or outputs or resources that can be managed like raw materials in a factory or pieces on a chess board. They are individuals with their own hopes and aspirations, their own worries and fears. They are the vital spark that turns intention into action. They make our organisations what they are. And we should put them at the heart of everything we do.