IREX’s Guide

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IREX’s Guideto OrganizationalPerformanceImprovement

ContentsIntroduction . 3Performance Improvement Principles . 6Performance Improvement Phases . 8Conclusion . 24Annex A Mozambique Media Strengthening Program’s Performance Coaching Matrix . 25Annex B Partnerships With Youth Positive Youth Development Coaching Tool . 30

IntroductionFocusing on organizations’ ability to achieve outcomes,meet constituents’ needs, and have greater impact is vitalto IREX’s mission to build just, prosperous, and inclusivesocieties. Over the past two decades, we have given alot of thought to organizational capacity development.Organizational capacity development is the processthrough which organizations obtain, strengthen, andmaintain capabilities to set and achieve their objectivesover time. It is about growth broadly speaking: growth ofthe organization in skills and experience. Organizationalperformance improvement is a specific approach tobuilding the capacity of organizations that zeros in onachieving their intended outcomes more effectively.performance outcomes, conducting performance gapassessments and analyses, developing and implementingperformance improvement solutions, and continuing toevaluate organizational performance.IREX believes that focusing on organizational performance- what an organization does, not just what it looks like- is central to strengthening organizations. Focusing onachieving outcomes serves as an important organizingprinciple to get all partners on board with organizationalperformance improvement. As partners see betteroutcomes, they will be encouraged to improve, be moreeffective and stronger, and ultimately have more impact.Inclusion is fundamental to performance improvement.IREX recognizes that to build just, prosperous, and inclusivesocieties, we need to have high performing institutionsthat can reach and engage all constituents. Inclusive andgenuinely participatory approaches ensure commitmentfrom all stakeholders to the performance improvementprocess, build trust, and result in performance solutionsthat make sense for all involved. To that end, this guideoffers tips on how to mainstream gender considerations,youth-friendly approaches, and inclusion more generallythroughout the organizational performance improvementprocess.This document describes the performance improvementprocess and IREX’s principles that underlie performanceimprovement. It offers guidance on the performanceimprovement process itself, starting with identifyingCapacityDevelopmentThis document provides guidance for IREX staff on howto go through a performance improvement process withpartners that is genuinely participatory, inclusive of abroad range of perspectives, and driven by the partner.This ensures that the partner organization achievesits outcomes and meets the needs of all constituents,particularly historically marginalized groups such aswomen, youth, and people with disabilities.VSPerformanceImprovementThis guide uses the term performance improvement instead of capacity development.Capacity development suggests a narrow andgeneric focus on organizational capacities, whichif strengthened in isolation of other importantinfluencing factors, may not be sufficient to help thepartner achieve its mission and serve its constituents.Performance improvement suggests helpingorganizations achieve better results and do their workbetter, which could entail examining factors suchas the local political economy, the strength of theorganization’s relationships with key stakeholders, theability of the organization to adapt to its environment,along with developing staff and other organizationalcapacities.www.irex.org3

Purpose of the GuideThis guide to performance improvement provides aconceptual framework for applying a performanceimprovement approach to IREX's organizationalstrengthening work and consolidates best practices basedon IREX’s experience working with a variety of institutionalpartners along with the latest thinking in the capacitydevelopment field. To that end, this is a living documentthat will need to be updated based on IREX staff feedback,data, and information collected from implementing aperformance improvement processes.Target AudienceThis guide is geared towards IREX staff who are designingorganizational strengthening programs or activities,helping organizations achieve desired outcomes, andparticipating in a performance improvement process.How to Use this GuideThis document is meant to serve as a guide, not aninstructional manual, for those designing, implementing,and participating in performance improvement activitieswith partner organizations. IREX staff should use thisguide to frame performance improvement activities,but activities need to be tailored to specific operatingenvironments and organizations. Use the guide as a basisfor discussion with partner organizations to define whatthe performance improvement process could look likefor their organization. Context is key.Additionally, this guide can apply to organizations atvarious stages of development. IREX’s performanceimprovement approach is designed to help organizations- regardless of their maturity or level of development understand how to more effectively achieve their statedoutcomes.www.irex.org4

Performance improvement partnerships are mostsuccessful when they are based on trust and partnerownership of the organizational strengthening process toensure sustained outcomes. The guidance provided in thisdocument is therefore meant to foster trust and partnerownership throughout the performance improvementprocess.It is also important to remember that the performanceimprovement partnership is a two-way street. Both theprovider and recipient of support need to continuouslylearn from one another and adapt the process as newfindings and learning emerge.Finally, in addition to involving individuals across thepartner organization in the performance improvementprocess, consider having a team of performanceimprovement support providers who can offer differenttypes of expertise and insights on how the partnerorganization can achieve better outcomes.Tip: Foster a "Culture ofCuriosity"Diagnostic tools and processes can only capture a certainamount of data about an organization or a snapshot ofan organization at a particular time. IREX encouragesstaff to create a "culture of curiosity" whereby IREX andits partners ask each other broader questions about eachother's aspirations, obstacles, and strengths, even beyondthe focus of the perfomance improvement exercise, tobetter understand the context in which we operate andfactors that might affect the organization's perfomancethat don't emerge through formal processes.For example, when first engaging a partner organizationin the perfomance improvement process, talk to variousteam members to understand what motivates them todo their work, their values, and individual aspirations.This information, for instance, can then be used to informthe design of perfomance solutions.www.irex.org5

Performance Improvement PrinciplesThe following principles underlie IREX’s approach to strengthening organizational performance. The next section of thisguide will provide guidance on how to operationalize these principles into the performance improvement process. Theicons are used as references to the principles throughout the document.ResultsIt is paramount to focus on achieving outcomes aligned with an organization’s mission, not just on how anorganization is structured or how well it functions internally, to strengthen organizational performance. Traditionalcapacity assessment tools often look at dozens of capacities without examining the question, “capacity to whatend?” Performance improvement focuses first and foremost on examining an organization’s mission and theoryof change, selecting specific performance outcomes and key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess related totheir mission and theory of change, designing assessment tools centered on those performance outcomes, andtesting and adapting performance solutions to help the partner organization better achieve those outcomes.SustainabilityAchieving results is critical to organizational sustainability. Ensuring that the performance improvement processaligns with the partner organization’s values and context, and maximizes locally-available resources will helppartner organizations continue the process beyond IREX’s involvement. Acknowledge our limits and work withthe partner organization to establish connections and networks with peers and other stakeholders to sustainperformance improvement efforts.TrustOrganizational performance improvement is successful when partnerships are based on trust to buildownership and when all are committed to the process. Be sure to engage staff across the partner organization- not just the director or a few key staff - in the performance assessment and solution developmentprocess. Looking at qualities like motivation, interest in learning, and willingness to take on a performanceimprovement process will be essential to the success of the process.InclusionGreater inclusivity results in better outcomes for all organizations.1 Since achieving better outcomes is central toorganizational performance improvement, it is vital to work with partners to find ways to more effectively serveall constituents, particularly historically marginalized groups.Multi-Level LensWhen looking at organizational performance improvement, it is important to analyze performance and developperformance solutions at multiple levels, including the operating environment, the organization, organizationalprocesses, and individuals’ performance. This multi-level lens not only looks at what an organization achieves,but also under what conditions (both external and internal), in what contexts (systems, organization, processes,and individual), for what groups of people, what ways, and to what extent it was men/www.irex.org6

FlexibilityFlexible partnership designs provide space for organizations to be creative, test, and adapt performancesolutions and approaches. Encouraging partner organizations to be open to new ideas and learning willallow the organization to respond to issues that may not have emerged during the initial assessment process.Learning and AdaptationFinding effective performance solutions requires continuous testing, evaluation, learning, and adaptation.Examine the partner organization’s culture to understand whether or not there is space for people to provideconstructive feedback and new ideas, willingness to operationalize learning that helps the organization betterachieve its outcomes, and willingness to adapt and change.www.irex.org7

Performance Improvement PhasesThe performance improvement process can be scaledup or down depending on the needs of the partnerorganization and available resources. The performanceimprovement process can also take place for organizationsat various points of development. For example, if anorganization already has a well-defined mission, you candevote much less time on mission reflection and settingperformance outcomes. If a partner organization only hasa limited period of time to undergo this process, consideronly looking at a few factors at each of the levels for thecurrent state analysis.2. Analyze and Assess Performance Gaps: Collectdata to determine the organization’s current state ofperformance.For any performance improvement process, however, itis essential to observe all the phases below, starting withdefining the specific outcome(s) and the change theorganization would like to see along with KPIs.4. Continued Performance Evaluation: Use structuredsystems to continuously evaluate progress using KPIs,if performance solutions are working, and adjust basedon experience. When designing performance solutionfeedback loops, ensure that partners have ways to safelyprovide feedback, particularly in complex environments.1. Define Mission and Desired Outcomes: Determinethe goal of the performance improvement process. Whatdo we want to change? Where do we want to be at theend of this?3.DevelopandImplementPerformanceImprovement Solutions: Once the main barriers andenablers to achieve the desired outcome have beendetermined, brainstorm, assess, and prioritize potentialperformance solutions based on their ability to closethe gap between the current state of performance anddesired state of performance.www.irex.org8

Mission Reflection & PerformanceOutcome SettingSpotlight: Start By Building TrustBuilding trust and a strong relationship with the partner organization is paramount to the organizational performanceimprovement process. In a partnership based on trust and mutual respect, partners are more likely to be honest about thechallenges and successes they have encountered, be willing to devote the resources needed to engage in the perfomanceimprovement process, be open to change and adaptaion, and feel connected to and more likely replicate the learning process.As much as possible, engage staff who are representative of the whole partner organization in the perfomance improvementprocess to collect viewpoints from staff, such as youth and those who are not normally part of decision-making processesor involved in such discussions but could offer valuable insights and support for the perfomance improvement process. TheTransforming Agency, Access, and Power (TAAP) initiative’s inclusive design toolkit suggests beginning any inclusive designor assessment process with inclusive inquiry and reflection, and provides an entry point for discussing difficult issues arounddiversity and inclusion. This process allows those involved to examine their own identities and biases, and provides anopportunity for IREX and partner organizations to understand the norms and practices that either support or inhibit inclusionwithin their organizations.Mission Reflection & Performance Outcome Setting - Key Steps Identify organizational theory of change related to its mission Map key outcomes related to the theory of change Determine how you will measure those outcomes by developing KPIs Reflect on the change that the organization wants to seewww.irex.org9

Mission ReflectionThe first and most crucial step in a performanceimprovement process is to reflect on an organization’smission. Consensus around what the organization wantsto achieve at the highest levels provides a foundationfor performance outcoming setting and the overallperformance improvement process.Theories of change can help organizations identifythe series of events that produce certain results. Whiletheory of change reflection is not a required componentof the performance improvement process, it can helporganizations identify key factors that lead to the typeof change they want to see, as well as assumptions thatmight impact those factors.For performance improvement, having an organizationaltheory of change can help organizations develop realisticoutcomes that they want to achieve. Here are somehelpful tools to facilitate an organizational theory ofchange process: The Aspen Institute’s The Community Builder’s Approach to Theory of Change includes anexplanation of what a theory of change is and provides guidance and resources on how tofacilitate a theory of change process with a community group. Annie E. Casey’s Theory of Change: A Practical Tool for Action, Results, and Learning offersconcrete suggestions for the kinds of changes to map and provides several examples of theoriesof change.Next, it is important that partners have the opportunity todefine performance outcomes based on the organization’stheory of change. Use an appreciative inquiry approach2to focus on what has worked for the organization andto find out what people in the organization care about.The following provides guidance on how to initiateoutcome-setting conversations and create a shared set ofperformance outcomes.Identify Outcomes of Performance ImprovementProcessWhile defining the outcomes of the performanceimprovement effort, it is important that the partnerorganization understands that the process needs to bea participatory, inclusive, and iterative process, and that2the outcomes of the process are meant to inform theperformance improvement process and to produce betteroutcomes — not to rate or score tive-inquiry/www.irex.org10

Performance improvement first and foremost focuseson outcomes since they are fundamental to achievingorganizational missions. Work with the partner organizationto identify the main outcome(s) that they want to achieve.All outcomes should be measureable. For example,community radio stations could cite producing originalprogramming that addresses critical information gaps asan outcome it wants to achieve. An educational institutioncould identify producing work-ready graduates who areable to find meaningful employment opportunities as aperformance outcome for its institution.After selecting specific outcomes, work with the partnerorganization to develop KPIs that will help them measureprogress towards their selected outcomes. In addition toidentifying indicators to measure progress on achievingthe stated outcome(s), work with partners to reflect on thechange they want to see. For example, if a library partnerseeks to become a modern library that offers servicesfor all community members, consider asking them thefollowing questions to get a better picture of the changethey want to achieve: What are the characteristics of a modern library? What should a library user’s experience be like whens/he visits your library? Is someone there to greet thatperson? What services are available to this person?How does s/he learn about and access those services?Tip: Conduct PartnerReflection ExercisesGather partner organization staff periodically to reflecton how they have come together around key decisionpoints and discuss how they have been able to react andrespond to challenges they've faced.IREX Case Study: The Mozambique Media StrengtheningProgram (MSP) hosts annual leadership conferences forall community radio coordinators for refresher trainingsrelated to community radio development, and collectingbest practices. Coordinators present on something theircommunity radio station is doing well and participate inexperience exchanges with staff from other communityradios on topics such as administration and humanresources, gender and gender-based violence, anddisaster preparedness, among others.To make MSP's activity a perfomance improvementexercise, the team would connect each of the discussiontopics to the missions and/or primary outcomes of thecommunity radios, highlighting how administration andhuman resources or gender-based violence impacts theeffectiveness of the community radio station's work.Tip: What Are KeyPerformance Indicators?Key performance indicators (KPIs) are quantifiablemeasures of an organization’s performance related toparticular organizational outcomes/goals. KPIs are criticalto the performance improvement process as they allowpartner organizations to measure their performance andthe effectiveness of performance solutions.www.irex.org11


the performance improvement process could look like for their organization. Context is key. Additionally, this guide can apply to organizations at various stages of development. IREX’s performance improvement approach is designed to help organizations - regardless of

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