Learning organisations: The informed policy maker
One large voluntary organisation ensures an open system of communication by:
- involving the Chief Executive in its induction programme, which lasts for one week and is the same for all staff
- setting up meetings for senior managers and frontline staff, leaving out middle management
- holding meetings for staff where any issue can be raised
- creating opportunities for dialogue outside the formal organisational structures.
The same organisation aims for ongoing learning by:
- ensuring that staff training needs are validated by service users and carers
- learning from getting things right as well as getting things wrong
- examining, reviewing and learning from the 'near misses’.
A social services department has:
- a director who meets all students that have had a recent placement, twice a year, to learn from their experiences
- a policy that all positive commendations received about staff from any route or source are always copied to all members of the management team
- a staff conference once a year on 'pride in what we do’ with service users and carers providing a video on their views of the department
- a phone line for staff to ring when they encounter a need for a service that does not exist at present
- an annual discussion with looked-after young people on the outcomes and role of the corporate parent.
In another social services department councillors are encouraged to:
- undertake wide-ranging visits to all parts of the organisation
- attend conferences and courses and network outside the organisation
- promote the idea that councillors and staff should assess the standards of practice and services with the question 'What if it were me or my family?’
- actively consider whether ideas from other departments would work in this one, and whether the policy or service in this department would work elsewhere.
One small charity has a monthly seminar where staff present their work. Lunch is provided and invitations are for both staff (including administrative) and trustees.