Good to Great in the Social Sector – a summary of key points

Good to Great in the Social Sector – a summary of key points
1. Business principles cannot be applied to social sector without
2. Both share issues about moving from good to great – but the concept
of greatness may be different in the social sector.
3. Same five step approach is applied – but with contextualisation:
(a) Going beyond simple business metrics to determine greatness
(b) Leadership in a diffuse power structure
(c) Getting the right people on the bus within public sector constraints
(d) Rethinking what the economic engine is without a profit motive
(e) Building momentum by building the brand
4. Concentrate on outputs not inputs – it’s not just about recruitment
levels or budgets – what are we trying to produce? Greatness for us
could be value-added, NSS ratings, DHLE etc - in other words it is
defined by reference to our mission. We can opt to use outputs that
defy measurement e.g. “most admired”. The key here is to have
descriptors of what greatness looks like. In any event we need to
assemble evidence, qualitative and/or quantitative of what we believe
the signifiers of greatness to be.
5. On this basis the inputs of greatness would be:
Disciplined people – level 5
leadership and the right
people on the bus
Disciplined thought – face the
facts – decide on the one
thing that drives you
Disciplined action – consistent
action and perseverance in
driving towards goals
Superior performance – evidence of
mission achieved with efficiency
Distinctive impact – LSBU would
leave a significant gap if it
Sustainability – greatness not
dependant on one person, product, or
6. Level 5 leadership in the social sector.
Social sector leaders are not less decisive than business leaders, they
simply work within a more complex decision making structure. The
approach has to be more legislative than executive – persuading,
influencing etc. But it should not be confused with being ‘nice’ ‘soft’ and
‘inclusive’ - the key point is that colleagues know the level 5 leader is
doing what is right for the organisation – not just for him or herself.
Leadership is not the same as simply exercising power – leadership
requires persuasion of others so that they believe in what is being put
forward and agree to support it regardless of the power relationship.
7. Getting the right people on the bus.
In the social sector we tend to be ‘humane’ employers. We cannot
throw money at employee problems. So getting the right people on the
bus and removing the ‘fare dodgers’ takes time. Key steps are:
(a) More care in the hiring process – only hire people committed to the
concept of greatness;
(b) Invert the probation process to create a presumption that
colleagues will not be kept on unless they can demonstrate the right
qualities for greatness – and extend probation for much longer
periods – use the process rigorously. Gradually the culture of a
department will change – the good driving out the bad.
(c) Don’t waste time incentivising those who cannot be motivated or
who are undisciplined. Work towards only having self-motivated and
self-disciplined people.
(d) If we have a clear social mission we can tap into the idealism of
candidates – then move towards being more selective (not ‘how did
you end up at LSBU’, but “Wow, so you work at LSBU!”).
(e) In the social sector having the right people can attract third stream
funding – but money of itself will not attract the right people.
8. The Hedgehog concept – what drives us?
(a) What is LSBU deeply passionate about?
(b) What can it be best at?
(c) What drives its economic engine?
The ‘economic engine’ issue is problematic – it could be corporate
surplus, but it makes more sense to talk about a sustainable resource
machine that allows us to deliver on our goals – Collins identifies this
as comprising time (staff input at below market rates); money (cash
flow); and brand (the extent to which people have goodwill for the
organisation and its mission).
The skills needed to support this ‘economic engine’ will vary according
to the organisation's reliance on state funding as opposed to revenue
generation or charitable giving.
LSBU clearly has exposure on a number of fronts – the aim has to be
that LSBU comes to be seen as the pre-eminent HE institution for
providing professional advancement to a wide range of individuals
capable of benefitting from those opportunities – donors/funders then
give money, not simply because they are sympathetic, guilty or
altruistic, but because they believe in what we are doing and know that
we are the best at doing it. LSBU needs to develop (repair??) its brand
reputation for being the widening participation and life changing HE
institution – first in London, then the region – then in UK.
In due course LSBU becomes an institution that has:
(a) a clear core purpose;
(b) consistent and enduring values
(c) operating practices, strategies and business models that change
from time to time as required to deliver on (a) in a way that is
consistent with (b).
(d) the ability to say ‘no’ to activities and ventures that divert resources
away from (a)
9. We could do it if only……..
Social sector organisations often bemoan sectorial constraints as the
reason more cannot be achieved. LSBU needs to look at similar
organisations that have made progress and look at how that has been
achieved – we need a commitment to persevere in building greatness
come what may – then bit by bit join up the pockets of success. Waiting
for the conditions to be ‘right’ means it will never happen – it’s up to us.
Mike Molan
Executive Dean AHS
19th May 2009