8. Juni 2014
An interim balance: How far have we moved from the pioneer and into the differentiation phase?
Two thirds through my time with KCC and time to draw an interim balance. In my blog from 22nd May I wrote about the main areas I planned to work on and when I look at them now, then I am quite happy about the progress so far.
In terms of my basic message I have tried to support and encourage KCC in two complementary areas. On the one hand strengthening the consultation procedures within KCC, so that the volunteers know their views are important, these are listened to and that they flow into the decision-making processes. (This didn’t happen sufficiently, for example, in the decisions last year concerning payments for the volunteers which led to the crisis). On the other hand ensuring that the Board of Directors is aware of its role and responsibility to make clear decisions, which are written down, followed and well communicated. In the past these two areas have been neglected, so that it was often unclear who was making decisions and what decisions were being made at all. And if decisions were made at all, they were sometimes not carried out or quickly superseded by a new one.
So what did I do in practical terms? Firstly, I concentrated on making an organisational chart (also very good for me so that I got a good picture of the organisation’s structure). It has been a very fruitful exercise. The chart had to be remade many times as people and tasks got found, as it became clear that assumed structures were wrong or made no sense. Sometimes I didn’t find it easy to hold back from saying that a particular hierarchical construction in a department seemed to have more to do with historical reasons and is in many ways confusing and unclear. I emphasised that the structure seemed wrong when viewed from outside the organisation, but as long as everybody involved know who does what and where to go if they have a question, then my opinion doesn’t really matter.
After the organisational chart was more or less sorted out I wanted to concentrate on clarifying the roles and responsibilities of all staff posts and meetings, so that all in KCC know what they are expected to do and what they can expect of others. It was clear from the beginning that we wouldn’t be able to finish this while I’m here, but I hope in the case of the most unclear jobs to talk with all the relevant people and to make a first draft of the job descriptions. I’m half way through this now. I’ll also have made a start at clarifying the roles and powers of the various committees. When I came there was no one taking minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors but now someone has been found and he’ll start today. When all these measures are in place then things should be better ordered and clearer for everybody; something for which they are very thankful. (They realise that the positive aspects of flexibility, openness to everything new etc. has its downside in not knowing where one should start with the work, feeling overwhelmed etc.).
I’ve already written about the bad state of the book-keeping. Further work with Sakina, the Finance Director, has only confirmed this. She and I have revised the procedures within the department and we’ve written a description of the state of the bookkeeping so that the expert who’s coming via Molly’s Network to introduce a new book-keeping system will have an idea of what to expect before he or she starts. I wanted to help her prepare a budget, but the accounts for 2013 are so incomplete, it is proving impossible to use previous experience as a basis for a start. At best we’ll get a rudimentary budget completed based on the imperfect information from 2013 and without consideration of new initiatives or planned changes.
Each department has so-called action plans which are outdated but are now being checked and pursued where possible. Only the ‘Office and Administration’ didn’t have one and Rashid and I have made a draft of that. He’s very pleased at last to have a picture of what he’s supposed to do. Without the plan he had no systematic overview and basically felt paralysed. Importantly, KCC’s strategy paper is long out-of-date and needed to be renewed. We had no time for a wide ranging review and arguably it wasn’t necessary considering all the other things going on, so I played the role of secretary – or perhaps more the midwife – with Nas and Rashid and we drafted a new strategy. We’ll present this and the Office Action plan to the Board of Directors today.
I wrote on May 22nd of my involvement in a dispute with a major funder. (I offered to mediate as it was causing a lot of uncertainty, even bad blood, and absorbing too much time and energy). Well, when I met the other side, I found that their wish to be flexible combined with what I see as a lack of professionalism, were making the situation worse. I rewrote the assessment of what KCC had achieved, as their first one was often imprecise, vague and far too long, so that the funders, understandably, I think, were very unhappy with it. (As KCC recognise themselves they are in great need in training in report-writing). At the same time they’ve been carrying out their own investigations, which I expect to show that they themselves have unwittingly contributed to the problems. So now I’m not so pessimistic and, contrary to my initial fears, maybe the agreement will be restarted. The major result has been though, that KCC no longer prostrate themselves in front of the big funder (you think I’m exaggerating? Well maybe if they aren’t doing this physically, they have been in every other way). They accept they may not get the much needed financial support, but are no longer prepared to continually cower down, and quite right so!
So, how far have we moved from the pioneer and into the differentiation phase? A good start I would say, but there are lots of pitfalls on the way yet. Clarifying things and writing them down on paper is all well and good, but far more important is a change in the mind-set (see my opening remarks on my basic message) and here only time will tell if my five weeks here have helped or not. On that sobering note I’ll sign off.