There are specific tools, each with its own core principles and practices, that allow a Theoretical Framework to be adapted by and for specific workplaces – whether Nonprofit or SME.
This article features a Theoretical Quality Framework, and others are in the final stages of development before I offer them to clients, audiences or RTOs. My own requirement is that they are easy to understand, cost-effective, and are capable of ensuring immediate practical benefits.
Four tools are introduced below – all of which support this Theoretical Quality Framework:
- Critical Success/Quality Factors,
- Three-level Analytical Tool to extend each critical success/quality factor to tangible and measurable elements,
- Business/Organisation life-cycle Tools, and
- Business Brainpower Tool.
These are introduced in turn, followed by an outline of the 45 years of development and discovery that have contributed to my bank of tools and core principles and practices for Nonprofits and SMEs.
But first – a definition, an overview and a quote.
Definition: Quality is the degree or standard of excellence, especially a high standard: the totality of the attributes of a service or product that meets the requirements of the provider or user of the service, and purchaser or owner of the product.
Overview: The first requirement is a quality system. With a quality system in place, quality control is possible. Quality assurance is possible only where there is total organisational commitment to quality. The outcome of quality assurance is continuous quality improvement. Without a quality system, quality assurance is at best a guess, with no basis for continuous quality improvement.
Quote: This quote from Radio National’s The Comfort Show on 24th March 2001 has proved to be extremely useful for me in this work. In fact it’s a core principle in itself:
- In a severe stress situation, for example cyclone or flood, the manner in which materials in a building are connected is of at least equal importance to the materials in withstanding the effect of the force – whether temperature, wind or water.
This quote reinforced for me the importance and value of the process of connecting, together with the suitability and reliability of the connecting instrument or vehicle.
You are welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss details of this and other Theoretical Frameworks.
1. Critical Success/Quality Factors
A critical success/quality factor is a factor which, if not functioning or operating satisfactorily, may place the Nonprofit or SME at risk.
SME Tool: 26 Critical Success Factors – Jean’s A-Z
Source: Section 3 – One Man Show – the smallest of small business (Jean Roberts, 2008)
- A critical success factor is a key factor which, if not functioning or operating to the desired level of quality, effectiveness and performance, may place you and your SME/One Man Show at risk. When formally identified and positioned, these Critical Success Factors can be monitored to ensure successful business outcomes and form the basis for risk management and continuous quality improvement.
The 26 Critical Success/Quality Factors are listed, explained and supported in Section 3, and addressed further in Section 4 – Traffic lights for One Man Show business start-ups:
- Green traffic lights – must do’s
- Red traffic lights – must not do, with notes on how to turn these to green
- Yellow traffic lights – cautions
Nonprofit Tool: 23 Critical Success factors
Source: Chapter 8, Committee Members’ Handbook (Jean Roberts, 1990), and Module 2, Unit2, Craft of Managing Training Manual for Voluntary Boards (Jean Roberts – 1st Edition 1992, 2nd Edition, 1996)
a) All organisations need to examine their progress at regular intervals. To do this easily and well, a blueprint is required against which activities and functions can be measured for effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. The blueprint also needs to give sufficient information to guide decisions to maintain or improve what is being done, and/or introduce new or updated activities or functions.
b) Critical success factors provide such a blueprint. They include procedures, documents, attitudes and behaviours that are useful in monitoring and evaluating the degree of success the organisation is experiencing in achieving the purpose for which it has been established, and providing a consistent quality of effort and achievement at governance/leadership, management and operational levels of activity.
c) Each Factor, complete with its agreed Components, is examined as to its:
- relevance at this time,
- improvement, and
- immediate practical benefit.
2. Three-level Analytical Tool
Additional text added, 29th March 2013: this is the basis of my Making Ethics Work Toolkit, Jean’s Nonprofit Organisation and Social Enterprise Health Check, and my Definition of Quality – all freely available through this website. This Three-level Analytical Tool has a wide application in both Nonprofits and SMEs, and is closely linked to critical success/quality factors by ensuring that each critical success/quality factor is given:
a) a definition,
b) a set of components – which together comprise the defined critical success factor, and
c) a set of elements for each component – by which the component can be recognised, monitored, measured and/or evaluated.
Each component (with its own set of elements) is an identity in its own right which will be affected by, and can itself affect, the quality of activities and functions.
This tool can be adopted as:
- an internal quality assessment tool,
- an internal quality improvement tool, or
- an internal quality management tool,
3. Business/Organisation life-cycle tool
Two examples of life-cycles are presented in my books – and each is appropriate for Nonprofits and SMEs.
Additional text added, 29th March 2013: The Continuing Life-cycle was developed during my funded action-research project from 1989 to 1996, and is introduced in Chapter 8 of my 1990 book Committee Members’ Handbook, and expanded in Section 3 of my 2008 book One Man Show – the smallest of small business in which I feature one-page displays of the continuing business life-cycles of my own small business from 1985 to 2012 – and Shakespeare’s small business from 1585 through to his death in 1616 .
One cycle in this tool represents a period through which a Nonprofit or SME moves through the four stages of innovation/planning, establishment/commencement, maintenance/consolidation and finally evaluation/assessment. The final stage provides a sound basis for further innovation in the planning of a new or revised growth and development strategy. (One cycle is the period between an initial innovation through to the point at which the next stage of innovation introduces the next cycle. It doesn’t infer that a Nonprofit or SME commences a new life, but rather enters a new stage of activity, or growth and development.)
In the event that a Nonprofit or SME omits or discards the third stage of maintenance/consolidation in a cycle – which means there is no evaluation/assessment as a basis for further innovation – the Nonprofit or SME may well decline in its performance, effectiveness and/or viability.
The Sigmoid Curve In my 2008 book One Man Show – the smallest of small business, I explain how the Sigmoid Curve was introduced to me through Charles Handy’s 1994 book, The Empty Raincoat as the product, organisation or relationship life cycle:
- The Sigmoid Curve sums up the story of life itself. We start slowly, experimentally and falteringly, we wax (ie become larger, more powerful) and then we wane (ie decrease gradually in size, strength and power – draw to a close).
- Luckily there is life beyond the curve. The secret of constant growth is to start a new Sigmoid Curve before the first one peters out. The right place to start that second curve is at a point during the growth curve where there is time, resources and energy to plan the next curve before the first curve reaches a plateau and declines.
In One Man Show – the smallest of small business I’ve displayed the Sigmoid Curve Life-cycles of my experience through the past 26 years as a small business owner/manager on page 118, and those of William Shakespeare as a small business owner/manager on page 122.
In my 2007 book Riding the Waves of Community Development in Australian since the 1970s, I introduce two uses of the Sigmoid Curve by Nonprofits in Chapter 6 this way:
- Applying the Sigmoid Curve to a nonprofit organisation, there is a stage of ‘innovation’ where a group of individuals share a common vision, and take steps to establish a legal entity as a means of achieving common goals toward a common vision. The Curve continues downward, indicating the considerable effort, hard work and passion required to establish the legal entity’s activities – and gain acknowledgement as a credible organisation. Growth follows, indicated by the upward incline of the Curve, which may represent many months or years.
- Even though the growth path may still be healthy and effective, Handy points out that it is inevitable that the organisation will peak and decline unless action is taken to review and evaluate the current situation together with past performance – and plan a new growth strategy to ensure continuation of the growth path.
Then in Chapter 7:
- When recently re-reading Voluntary Nonprofit Enterprise Management (David E Mason (1984), Plenum Press, New York), I reflected on Arleon Kelley’s Organisation Life-Cycle Curve on page 168. You’ll notice the similarity with the Sigmoid Curve, introduced in Chapter 6. I’ve numbered the relevant points on Kelley’s Organisation Life-cycle Curve, and then introduced his definitions of the numbered stages.
Kelly’s model suggests only one cycle for a Nonprofit – whereas Handy (and I) encourage multiple cycles for both Nonprofits and SMEs.
4. Business Brainpower Tool
Additional text added, 29th March 2013: Source: Chapter 4 – The Left and Right Brain Business (Jean Roberts, 1997). I discovered the Business Brainpower Tool in 1986; diligently applied, tested and refined it through the next decade to the stage where I could explain its use and usefulness in this 1997 book – and have continued to share and apply it in a wide variety of business scenarios – both nonprofit and commercial.
My definition of Business Brainpower is:
- The ability to understand how people think and act differently to you, why they do, and how to apply this knowledge and understanding in managing problems, creating opportunities and accepting challenges.
It is possible to align particular values and behaviours with high left-brain dominance, high right-brain dominance, and slight dominance for either left- or right-brain. Put very simply, any need, opportunity or challenge can be broken down into three major components for careful examination – whether at the planning, implementation or evaluation stage:
- the people involved with or affected by the need, opportunity or challenge
- tasks or actions to be achieved by these people, and
- the environment within which the people will plan and implement the task or actions.
Think of these three components as the three points in an equilateral triangle – all three sides and angles of equal value and importance.
It is my belief and experience that if we can understand and anticipate human behaviours, we are much closer to:
- increasing job satisfaction, efficiency and productivity in the workplace,
- enhancing our personal relationships, and
- being able to confidently capitalise on opportunities as they arise.
The process of my developing or discovering tools and core principles and practices
Through the past 45 years, I’ve been active with and within the Nonprofit and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Sectors, including:
- practical experience as an employed community worker, nonprofit Board member, family business partner, SME owner/manager, sole operator, company director, trainer, consultant, mentor, writer and publisher,
- accessing and contributing to formal research in both Sectors,
- selecting a bank of tools and core principles and practices that are applicable in both Sectors,
- undertaking a number of specific action-research projects in each Sector – some of which have been self-funded,
- creating, trialling, refining and publishing a wide range of practical tools, strategies and checklists for both Sectors,
- preparing numerous training and workshop manuals on specific aspects of Nonprofit, SME and Entrepreneurship, and
- writing and publishing practical books, articles and e-books that have both contributed to and built upon my activities and achievements.
You are welcome to contact me at email@example.com to discuss details of this and other Theoretical Frameworks.