In Meta we talk a lot about excellence, in its true sense, which is about working in a way which is inspired and natural. If we actually use our natural abilities, we find it easy to be excellent. The work we do with organisations is based on the principle that we all can be excellent, we just need reminding of what comes to us naturally!
We have done a lot of research over the years into what the distinctions are that enable an organisation to be excellent. Over the last few months, we have been working with an organisation, Bromsgrove and District Housing Trust, which is a living example of what we talk about and we thought it was worth briefly describing what we mean by using them as an example.
Let’s begin by emphasising how important the vision and commitment of the senior management team is. At BDHT, the executive team truly want their organisation to be the best it possible can be, for both staff and customers. They have recognised that nurturing a culture which encourages and supports their staff is key to achieving their long-term aims, of being both sustainably successful and offering the best possible service to their customers.
They have also recognised that everyone within the organisation has to feel a similar level of commitment to making it work as well as possible, and that it is their responsibility to create the environment that enables people to feel empowered to contribute not only their best in their specific roles, but also their ideas for making the organisation as a whole even better.
The commitment in BDHT, from the senior management team, the managers and the staff as a whole, is not just intellectual – ‘this is a good idea’ – it is also emotional – ‘we really care about making BDHT brilliant as a place to work and as a service’.
The work we have been doing with them is designed to support and reinforce their desire to be the best they can be. We have been working with the whole staff group on the tools and techniques which will help them to continue to develop their culture and ethos in practical ways.
We began by getting everyone to define what they believed would be the ideal place to work, and thereby getting them to realise that they all wanted the same sort of culture, ethos and way of approaching things in their workplace. We also asked them to describe the way people would work in such a workplace, what the values and operating principles would be, and again, there was a clear agreement about what these were.
Since then we have been running a programme with them on working smarter not harder, which is designed to make them conscious of the behaviours which make the difference in building towards being that ideal organisation. In this programme we have concentrated on how you can keep yourself on form, so that you are more likely to be effective, and how you work with others in a way that brings out the best in both of you.
There is no doubt that they already had many of these ways of working in their working practice, but by making them aware of what makes the difference, they find it easier to build on their strengths, deal with the things that sometimes stop them from being excellent, and become even better as an organisation.
The enthusiasm and willingness to take it further that we experience with them is a testament to both their prior good practice, and their excellence as an organisation. They have recently been classified as 9th in the Best Companies Awards for non-profit organisations, a massive improvement on their position last year. Yet maybe the most telling piece of evidence is the fact that not one member of staff wishes they could work somewhere else – when your people want to come to work on a Monday morning, we reckon you have cracked it!