An intervention in February 2017 reveals what staff performance at the levels of project activity implementation may say to a civil society organization about its organizational development questions.
Toward the end of February 2017 was requested by UCRT (Ujamaa Community Resource Team), based in Arusha, Tanzania, to observe its own designed and conducted staff assessment process involving 32 UCRT (20 men, 12 women) staff members. In addition to ensuring a safe ground for all in the assessment procedures, was also asked to document the results in summary form and present the findings to the UCRT board, i.e., 1) a general picture of what had emerged as strengths and weaknesses of the various staff members in terms of performance at skills and relationships levels; 2) key challenges noted that were likely to impact UCRT as a whole; 3) the performance picture that emerged, relating particularly to UCRT management; 4) related opportunities and challenges for UCRT’s organizational development.
UCRT is a non-profit organization founded in 2002 which supports local communities to secure legal rights over their lands and equips them with skills in sustainable natural resource management. It works with eight different ethnic groups in 60 pastoralist and hunter-gatherer communities, spread across five districts of Northern Tanzania.
UCRT is particularly concerned that some of East Africa's most traditional pastoralist and hunter-gatherer communities are currently at great risk of losing their land and resources due to progressive land encroachment and lack of representation in modern Tanzania.
More than 30 women and men staff members if UCRT are working with great commitment to facilitate community-based natural resource management troughs advocacy and collaboration with government institutions at district levels.
To expand their model and scale up community led sustainable resource management and land rights initiatives for pastoralists and hunter-gatherer communities, UCRT is currently working to strengthen its organizational systems and strategic focus.
What stood out
- It is rare that contracts for an intervention that seems to be limited to the formal organizational level of structure and activity performance, as well as the skills required for implementation and formal management of the organization.
- It was particularly interesting that UCRT had also zeroed in on the organizational level of relationships as another key area for performance assessment, with the desire to see how the organization was performing in terms of team work.
- facilitators remained curious as to what had motivated UCRT’s desire to explore the level of relationships.
- Being development practitioners who normally insist on holistic or organization-wide interventions, we did ‘pat ourselves in the back’ for the openness with which took on a rather rushed request, which seemed to address narrow focus that required a quick fix by management consultants.
- On the part of UCRT itself, facilitators were particularly impressed by UCRT’s frequency of interactions with government departments, both in terms of leveraging administrative support and managing legal requirements and needs of the communities they serve.
- This was the first time that UCRT had conducted such a staff assessment and was therefore rather exploratory with the set of questions asked and the way the process was designed.
Facilitating meaning making and responsibility-taking
From the point of view of change management in organization development practice, what went particularly well included:
- The use of tools that successfully enabled meaning-making by all staff immediately after the assessment: 1) created ownership by all staff who participated in the participatory assessment; 2) surfaced important issues, including appreciation, worries and some specific fears of staff members about the assessment. facilitators ability to place focused issues from over 1000 staff assessment forms into summary tables and interpret them into the levels of complexity framework and prepare a systemic picture within a very short time before presenting to the UCRT Board.
- Facilitating meaning-making for the Board through the levels of complexity framework enabled them to experience the depth of issues arising out of the staff assessment. After the presentation and brief discussions, some board members expressed their felt need to spend more time with the summarized information from the assessment, toward making more informed and effective decisions, going forward.
Insights gained by facilitators
In their own reflection, looking back at the intervention, the two consultants who facilitated the UCRT process highlighted their new learning as follows:
- The power of organizational levels of complexity framework as a tool was confirmed, particularly how it helped UCRT board to see deeper issues at various other levels of organizational values, identity management and leadership, and in what way these might influence performance at the levels of activity implementation.
- The “levels of complexity” framework enables an organization to examine its emerging issues more holistically, i.e. from the perspective of an organization as a system whose different aspects are constantly interacting and influencing performance at any specific level being assessed.
Evaluation of facilitators’ reflection process
- This reflection helped to name and state what the intervention was all about, i.e., the facilitators were enabled to articulate the different aspects of the intervention.
- The reflection enabled to generate good practice insights in terms of our abilities and questions related to our responsiveness to varying needs of potential clients.
- The reflection gave us deeper insights on the use of tools that facilitate organizational learning and grounded facilitators’ ability and desire to work such tools in all relevant situations.
- The reflection, particularly through use of the action learning model, strengthened facilitators’ openness as growing OD practitioners and facilitators of development in others.”