We’re looking for a new Finance & HR Administrator

WE’RE HIRING!

Do you have excellent organisation skills, consistency and an eye for detail? Can you learn quickly, be adaptable, flexible and be able to work in the ever-changing context of a growing organisation?

We are looking for a new Finance and HR Administrator, with a minimum of 2 years experience and who has AAT Level 2 qualification or similar, to provide a solid backbone to the organisation for all our financial and personnel aspects. As a key member of the team, you will work closely with our Directors, the Business Manager and other key staff, joining a friendly and dynamic team at the cutting-edge of thinking and practice in supporting and measuring service user change.

Triangle is the social enterprise behind the Outcomes Star. We are committed to supporting staff to reach their highest potential and there may be opportunities for personal development.

Initially this position will be based at home while Covid-related restrictions are in place. Thereafter, you will work from our Hove office and might be required to attend occasional meetings in London.

For more information about the position and to apply, you can download the job description and application form from our careers page

The Missing Middle Way: How Management by Results can help us not just measure, but also improve outcomes

Joy MacKeith argues that Payment by Results can cause as many problems as it addresses.  Management by Results, which supports ongoing learning and collaboration, is the missing middle way between ignoring outcomes on the one hand, and linking them to financial incentives on the other.

In early September I was privileged to participate in the fifth Social Outcomes Conference, organised by the Government Outcomes Lab at Oxford University. Contributions from both academics and practitioners from all over the world made for a very rich debate in which everyone had their eye on the prize of improving social outcomes.

The debate got me thinking about the limitations of Payment by Results and an alternative – an approach I am calling Management by Results.  This blogpost explains the difference between the two and how Management by Results has the potential to unlock performance improvement.

Why I am a fan of an outcomes approach

In the old days we didn’t measure outcomes.  We counted inputs and outputs.  We collected case studies.  Occasionally we commissioned evaluations or user surveys.  Then came the outcomes revolution.  I have been part of that revolution, spending much of the last 20 years helping organisations to measure their outcomes.

I am a fan because I have seen that defining, measuring, and managing outcomes enables service providers to create services with a clarity of purpose, identify issues and gaps, and ultimately improve what they deliver for service users. It undoubtedly is a good thing for organisations to focus on outcomes.

But what happens when financial imperatives are introduced into the equation?  What happens when a project or organisation’s survival becomes dependent on evidencing that they have achieved certain outcomes?

Why I’m wary of linking outcomes with financial incentives

In the employment sector where Payment by Results (PbR) has been in operation for some time the consequences are quite well documented (Hudson., Phillips, Ray, Vegeris & Davidson, 2010[1]).  Organisations can be incentivised to focus narrowly on the specific targets which are linked to payment and ignore everything else.

This can lead to a narrowing of their work with individuals (just making sure they get a job rather than working on longer-term issues such as addiction or mental health problems that are likely to impact on their ability to keep the job for example).  It can lead to short-termism with less focus on long-term impact and sustainability.  It can lead to ‘cherry picking’ of clients who are most likely to achieve the target (also called ‘creaming’) and not ‘wasting resources’ on those who are not likely to achieve the target within the timescale of the project (also known as ‘parking’).

The fact that there are widely used terms for these kinds of gaming practices reflects the fact that these perverse incentives are widely recognised and understood. In the financial sector Goodhart’s Law[1] that any financial indicator that is chosen by government as a means of regulation becomes unreliable is well accepted. In the words of the anthropologist Marilyn Strathern “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”.[2]

In addition to this, there are other more subtle but nevertheless powerful impacts.  In Triangle’s work helping organisations to measure their outcomes we have seen time and again that when the impetus for this measurement is commissioner requirement, the organisation is likely to see outcomes as something that is done for the commissioner rather than something they own.

The result is that the quality of the data collected is poorer and the service provider just passes it on to the commissioner rather than mining this outcomes gold for learning and service development.  This is very unfortunate because sending outcomes information to commissioners doesn’t improve outcomes, whereas using it to better understand delivery does.

Another impact of PbR is that it focuses attention on the work of the service provider in isolation as opposed to looking at how the service delivery system as a whole is working. In practice often it is the network of service provision that achieves the outcome rather than a single provider.

Finally, in the market for social outcomes, providers find themselves in competitive rather than collaborative relationships, which can make system-wide cooperation and information sharing more difficult.

The missing middle way
There were several speakers at the recent GoLab conference who argued that financial incentives can work – if they are done well.  I am writing primarily from personal experience rather than extensive research and I trust that what they say is true.  I am also aware myself of PbR contracts and Social Impact Bonds that have been sensitively implemented with all parties understanding the risks and the funding mechanisms carefully designed to build the right incentives.

My concern is that too often the approach isn’t done well and also that the alternative of MbR is not recognised and considered.  In our enthusiasm to embrace outcomes we have gone from one extreme of not talking about or measuring outcomes at all, to the other extreme of linking payment to outcomes.  Between these two poles there is a middle ground – a third way which can unlock the potential of outcome measurement without so many of the downsides.

So what does Management by Results look like and how is it different from Payment by Results?

The Management by Results mindset
Both MbR and PbR involve identifying and measuring outcomes.  But in MbR the emphasis is on the service provider using this information in the management of the service to identify strengths, weaknesses and issues to be addressed.  Whereas in PbR the emphasis for the service provider is on using the information to secure the funding the organisation needs to survive.

For commissioners MbR means requiring the service provider to measure their outcomes and then drawing on that information to assess their performance.  But crucially in MbR the commissioner draws on other information as well and has room for judgement.  PbR is black and white.  Target achieved = good, payment made. Target not achieved = bad, no payment made.

MbR allows for greater subtlety and a more rounded assessment.  The commissioner looks at the data, but they also look at the organisation’s narrative about the data.  Is it a coherent narrative? Are they learning from their data and using the lessons to improve service delivery?  What do others say about the service?  What do you see if you visit and what do service users have to say?

The commissioner draws on all this information to make their assessment.  Of course, life would be a lot easier if you didn’t have to do this and could reduce a project’s effectiveness to a few numbers.

But you can’t.

There is always a wider picture, for example in the employment sector, what is happening in the service user’s personal life, what is happening in the local economy, what other services  the person is receiving and what impact are they are having. The numbers have a part to play but they are never the whole answer.

How Management by Results changes the questions and supports learning
An organisation that is managing by results will take a systematic approach to collecting and analysing outcomes data and will then use that data for learning and accountability.  The job of the manager is to ask: “Why did this work – what good practice can we share?”  and “Why didn’t this work, what do we need to change and where can we learn from others?”

The job of the commissioner or investor is to assess “Is this organisation taking a sensible and systematic approach to measuring its outcomes? And is it learning from its measurement and continually changing and improving what it does?” PbR encourages hiding of poor results and exaggeration of positive results as well as the creaming and parking described above.  This positively hinders learning and obscures what is really happening.

MbR encourages collaboration between service provider and commissioner in identifying and achieving their shared goals.  PbR obscures these shared interests by incentivising service delivery organisations to prioritise their own survival.

The table below summarises the differences:

Payment by ResultsManagement by Results
A black and white approach.  Achieving the target is assumed to equate to successRecognises the complexity of service delivery and that success must be interpreted in context
Payment is linked to achievement of targets.  There is no room for skilled judgement or for considering wider contextual informationOutcomes information is placed in a wider context.  There is room for skilled judgement
Obscures the shared goals of commissioner and service provider and encourages service providers to focus on organisational survivalEmphasises the shared goals of service provider and commissioner and encourages the provider to focus on achieving intended outcomes
Encourages a gaming culture because service providers are assessed on whether they have met the targetBecause service providers are assessed on whether they are using outcome measurement to address issues and improve services it encourages a learning culture
Service providers are incentivised to withhold information from commissioners and even falsify dataService providers are incentivised to share information and learning with commissioners and problem solve together for the benefit of clients

Management by results is not easy but it is worth the effort

Management by Results is not easy.  At Triangle we support organisations to implement the Outcomes Star and in practice this means that we are supporting them to build a MbR approach.  This involves forging new habits, behaviours and organisational processes, creating new interdepartmental links, new reports and new software.

It isn’t easy and it takes time, even for the most willing and able.  But we also see the benefits for those that stick with it – managers with a much better handle on what is happening in their services, who can pinpoint and address issues and share good practice as well as evidence achievements.

I believe that if the sector put more energy, funding and research into supporting organisations to manage by results, it would really start to unlock the potential to not only measure, but also improve outcomes.

What do you think?

[1]Hudson, M., Phillips, J., Ray, K., Vegeris, S., & Davidson, R. (2010). The influence of outcome-based contracting on Provider-led Pathways to Work (Vol. 638). Department for Work and Pensions.

[2] Goodhart, C.A.E. (1975). “Problems of Monetary Management: The U.K. Experience”. Papers in Monetary Economics (Reserve Bank of Australia

[3] http://www.atm.damtp.cam.ac.uk/mcintyre/papers/LHCE/goodhart.html

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Triangle is the social enterprise behind the Outcomes Star™. Triangle exists to help service providers transform lives by creating engaging tools and promoting enabling approaches. To talk to Joy MacKeith or another member of the Triangle team, or for any other information, please email info@triangleconsulting.co.uk.

A Society in which everyone is able to thrive

Triangle Director Joy MacKeith reflects on the Social Value Matters 2020 international conference which took place last week and how it helped locate Triangle’s work in a wider movement for a fairer world.

The Social Value Matters 2020 conference was a truly immersive event.  The organisers took the opportunity of moving the event online to create a 24-hour programme so there was something for everyone, in every time zone, at every possible hour of the day.  

The result was a somewhat overwhelming amount of content but also a tremendous sense of being part of an international community looking for ways to measure things that really matter from environmental impact to worker’s rights to social inclusion.  And importantly looking for ways to make sure these things are not only valued but drive decision-making as well.

What was most interesting and encouraging for me was hearing the way that diverse agendas seem to be converging. 

Philanthropic organisations are more interested in systems change – understanding the underlying dynamics which keep the problems they are trying to address in place.  Corporations are going beyond the traditional domain of corporate social responsibility to engage with wider issues such as inequality. 

Governments are providing incentives to business owners to transfer ownership to their employees. Third sector organisations are using the language and practices of the market to express their achievements in terms that are engaging to governments and investors.  It seems that it is becoming easier, at least for some, to talk across sectoral boundaries. 

The wider vision that underpinned many of the contributions was the idea that if companies can be required to report on their environmental and social impact and demonstrate ethical governance (the ‘ESG’ agenda) then capitalism can start to serve the many and not just the few.

It seems that a growing number of investors want this and that many of the challenges are now technical – finding common metrics and benchmarks to allow comparability.  Jeremy Nicolls, one of the founders of Social Value International, urged everyone to be pragmatic and make it happen rather than spend time in pursuit of an impossible perfection.  There was a real sense of the possibility of change, and of the urgency too.

It all seemed a far cry from our Triangle world of supporting better conversations, enabling personal change and giving managers tools for service learning and development.  However, it was good to put our mission of helping service providers transform lives into a wider global context.  Triangle’s vision is a society in which everyone is able to thrive.  Every contributor at the event was, in one way or another, addressing that cause.  I hope that we can all find our place in the bigger picture so that we can play as full a part as possible in achieving this vision.

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Triangle is the social enterprise behind the Outcomes Star™. Triangle exists to help service providers transform lives by creating engaging tools and promoting enabling approaches. Through the Outcomes Star, they work with services to promote and measure individual change and to enable learning at an individual, service, organisation and sector-wide levels. The Outcomes Star™ is an evidence-based management tool for both supporting and measuring change. For more information email info@triangleconsulting.co.uk.

November Webinar dates

November dates for our existing clients free webinar series: covering How to use the Star Online (A Practitioners Guide) and An introduction to Star Online reports dashboards live webinars via Zoom.

Triangle has been hosting webinars, for existing clients, over the last few months who are currently using the new Star Online or who would like an introduction to the new Star Online system. Clients will be emailed details of dates and links to book through. Otherwise, if you are an existing client that has already been migrated to the new Star Online then you can find details and book through the help section of Star Online.

If you are based in Australia or New Zealand, you will need to register through Unique Outcomes outcomestar.com.au

How to use Star Online (Practitioners Guide)

This webinar will be an orientation session to the new Star Online and during the webinar we will introduce practitioners to the new Star Online features, such as setting up engagements and managing notifications. It will also explore many of the main tasks practitioners need to complete, including:

  • creating a service user
  • adding Stars and Action Plans
  • navigating the Help Centre and
  • locating the Star resources you need.

 

An introduction to Star Online report dashboards

Hosted by two Star experts, this workshop is ideal for Managers and anyone responsible for producing reports on Outcomes Star data. This webinar will be covering:

  • The three new report dashboards for implementation, snapshot and distance-travelled reporting
  • How to use the filters
  • How to think about engagements to create instant and engaging charts that can be downloaded to add to any report or funding bid.

We will also discuss what the reports can tell you about how Stars are being used in a service and the progress made by service users.

 

Each webinar will consist of a short video presentation, which will be followed by a question and answer season and it is designed to support clients by sharing knowledge, ideas and information.

The dates available are as follows:

  • Tuesday 3rd November at 10am:  How to use Star Online (Practitioners Guide)
  • Wednesday 4th November at 10am: An introduction to Star Online report dashboards
  • Monday 9th November at 10am: How to use Star Online (Practitioners Guide)
  • Tuesday 17th November at 10am: An introduction to Star Online report dashboards
  • Tuesday 17th November at 2pm : How to use Star Online (Practitioners Guide)
  • Monday 23rd November at 10am : How to use Star Online (Practitioners Guide)
  • Monday 30th November at 10am : How to use Star Online (Practitioners Guide)
  • Tuesday 1st December at 2pm: An introduction to Star Online report dashboards

For more information on the webinars, how to book, or what clients need to do, please take a look at our previous posts, or wait for your invite email. Please note: We have limited spaces available and we expect them to fill up quickly! We will be organising further webinars to meet demand.

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If you have any questions about our webinars, remote training, new Stars, or would like any information on the new Star Online, or anything else, please contact us on info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44 (0) 207 272 8765.