I wonder how many of you enjoy puzzles. As a child I recall reaching an age where I thought of puzzles as boring. I loved math at school and realized at some point that math was only a vehicle for puzzling things out, for applying a rubric or analysis strategy to a problem in order to speed up one’s ability to generate a viable solution. I left math behind when I graduated from high school, but I still love to puzzle things out – whether that means solving the NYT crossword or achieving “genius” status in the NYT spelling bee. My real joy in my life, however, comes from puzzling out the intersecting array of challenges organizations encounter: Interpersonal challenges, structural misalignment, leadership pressures, policy gaps, external stressors, skill enhancement needs, clarity of mission and vision, the impact of change, even where certain people sit in the office, and more. Peeling back the layers of organizational life to understand the diversity of opportunities (and barriers) to organizational health and wellbeing is both important and fruitful.
In our work we often say: “To transform conflict, turn people problems into situation problems.” In conflict it is tempting to focus on people as the problem rather than digging into the situational and structural realities that aid and abet organizational challenges. Of course, structures are not disconnected from the people that inhabit them. Organizational health assessment processes are designed to help sift and sort through the various factors impacting an organization – whether those are situational, structural, skill-based, or interpersonal.
Just like in our personal lives, every organization goes through ups and downs, moments of glory and seasons of hard slogging. Sometimes organizations “get it right” and soar. Other times they get it wrong, and upon reflection they think, “how did we not see that?” And at still other times, tough seasons are thrust upon the organization through no fault of its own – change has happened in one way or another and the foundation upon which the organization now rests is on shaky ground: the organization must find its footing once more. At Credence, our job is to come alongside organizations and the individuals who work within them to help them find sure footing and to discern a path forward that is both truthful and grace-filled. Our assessment work is a part of this journey.
An organizational health assessment is not an investigation. There is no ruling, no declaration of who is at fault – that is the work of an investigator for formal complaints involving harassment or discrimination. Instead, organizational health assessments consider overarching themes in the organization that lead to health or ill-health. In practice, this involves reviewing and analysing key organizational strengths and challenges. It also includes a series of recommendations to strengthen the organization and those who work within it.
At Credence, when we engage in an organizational health assessment, we look at the situation from multiple angles. We consider existing organizational documents. We offer surveys (most often, that invite paragraph answers), and conduct interviews to ensure every person involved in the assessment has a voice. We devote significant time to tracking the themes identified during our listening process to ensure we understand and reflect the situation accurately. Then we write.
I need to pause here to reflect on how weighty the three words in the last sentence are. Writing an assessment report is a gargantuan task. We want to get it right. We do not want to miss anything, and we are committed to our work being both tender and hopeful, while still being truthful. Leading organizational health assessments is sensitive work. Credence’s goal is that the completed report functions like a touchstone for the organization, helping the organization to accurately understand its current reality while also offering a clear strategy for moving toward health.
Sometimes we encounter groups who ask us to simply forego an assessment. They say things like: “Can’t you just start facilitating?” While urgent facilitations are sometimes necessary, addressing organizational challenges and opportunities without an assessment first, can be a bit like building a house without a floor plan. It is possible, but generally ill-advised, especially if one would like the house angles to line up properly and the roof trusses to match the actual size of the house. Moreover, an organizational health assessment includes strategies to ensure that those in the organization have a voice and can speak into the challenges impacting them. An effective assessment is like building a house where the people moving into the house have an opportunity to express what they would like to see in their new lodgings.
We are committed to you, our clients. We wholeheartedly believe that workplaces can be places of joy, delight, meaning, and purpose. On the organizational journey, each organization and its leaders will fall down – no one gets a pass on this. Our goal is not to eliminate falls, but rather to help you fall down less often. When any one of us does fall down, we benefit from having people in our corner to help us up and to cheer us on as we do so. Our goal at Credence is to be the kind of people who do exactly that: help you up when you fall, cheer you on when cheerleading is what you need, and through whatever we do, help you find your way to thriving and soaring once more.