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  Alternatives Pty Ltd
  ABN 23 050 334 435

Contents | 1. Introduction | 2. Stories we are in | 3. Ways of seeing | 4. Characteristics
5. Organisational review questionnaires | 6. Resources

4. Characteristics

What makes a thriving organisation? There are many ways of thinking about the characteristics of a thriving organisation. The following is one suggested framework for human services. Three related frameworks are:

  • Business Excellence Framework
  • The Australian Service Excellence Standards
  • Quality Improvement Council's Core Standards for Health and Community Services


One view is that a thriving human service organisation will have all the following characteristics. What is your view?

Sound governance including clarity of roles and responsibilities of the governing body
Processes and systems in place to ensure accountability for the organisation as a whole
Explicit ethical framework

Shared identity and purpose
Shared values
Shared strategic direction
Organisational culture of learning, innovation, improvement and sustainability

Understanding services
Understanding the changing services context
Understanding what clients and communities need
Understanding the services and service processes
Continuously improving service processes

Well connected with the community and services network
Good working relationships with other service providers and organisations including agreements and contracts where appropriate
Well connected with and supported by the community
Good relationships with clients including explicit client rights and responsibilities

Strategic planning in place
Business planning in place
Services planning in place
Innovative approaches to services

Getting results for clients
Client needs identified and understood
Client choices identified and communicated
Effective services - clients getting results
Coordinated services

Committed, motivated and excited
Working in teams and across teams
Learning and developing
Healthy and safe workplace and environment

Service data and knowledge
Gathering relevant data
Aware of relevant research and the evidence base for practice
Turning data into information and knowledge for decision-making
Using the data, information and knowledge to improve services

Having sufficient financial resources
Financial planning
Financial monitoring and control

Risk management
Identifying risks
Responding to risks
Appropriate risk management processes in place

Compliance with all relevant laws and regulations

Processes and systems
Adequate and appropriate processes and systems in place:
Data collection and information
Human resources
Information technology

Documenting policies and procedures to ensure there is a common understanding of the framework for action

Reviewing and evaluating
Involving all stakeholders
Monitoring systems and processes in place
Data gathering, analysis and reporting in place
Evaluating results for clients and communities.

Organisational systems

Core systems that will be required in the above:

  • Board review (systems for the Board of Governance reviewing itself and its work)
  • Strategic planning processes
  • Innovation - identifying and nurturing
  • Financial planning and control
  • Compliance (with legal requirements)
  • Risk management (identification and ongoing monitoring and implementation)
  • Human resource (recruitment, selection, orientation, staff development, etc incl OH&S)
  • Data collection and analysis systems
  • Knowledge development systems - turning data to knowledge and connection with other knowledge and research
  • Communication and information systems including
    o communication to develop organisational culture (eg staff newsletter)
    o information systems such as email, minutes of meetings etc
    o organisational and service policy systems
  • Connections with the community, community services, wider society (eg interagencies, strategic external meetings, etc)
  • Review processes for ensuring the organisation is doing the right services (ie consistent with purpose).
  • Evaluation processes for ensuring services are quality services and continually improving
  • IT to support the above systems and other organisational processes.

Key questions
What do you think are the characteristics of an innovative, thriving sustainable organisation?
What are the core organisational systems required?
What is your organisation doing well?
What is it doing not so well?
What systems are in place? Not in place?
What is required for improvement?