If it doesn't add value, don't do it.

Old management wisdom says that if you are saddled with a time-wasting task (writing a report, let’s say) and you don’t see the point of what you’re doing-don’t do it. Wait to see who misses it. If someone shows up asking you for it, you can ask them why it’s so important. Then you might learn why it matters, and improve it, or maybe gain some leverage to argue why it should be off your plate. If no one shows up looking for it, you can safely let it go.

This advice always seemed risky to me, but it’s come back to me in this pandemic, especially for human service organizations. If something isn’t needed right now—a service, function, activity—don’t do it. This simple truth, if we use it carefully, can increase efficiency, trim fat, and maybe help us discover new areas of value.

Once identified, these areas of high value must be understood inside your organization and communicated (and demonstrated) outside your organization. Your organization’s power lies where resources and value come together. Resources, like time, money, or energy, spent anywhere else is a drag on the organization. Value unsupported by resources is squandered.

It all comes down to this: One of the most important things human service organizations do is create and sustain caring relationships with the people we serve. We then characterize these relationships in ways to demonstrate value (data, reports, billable services). So, every interaction in the organization becomes an exchange of value—on the basis of a relationship, our staff record things done in order to trigger payment for those activities.

Now we’re in the midst of a pandemic that hits at the heart of people being with people. No one in your organization has the time for anything that does not produce significant value—i.e.: relationships and connection. We should borrow the marketing concept “value propositions” to help us identify, develop, and demonstrate the good and worthwhile things we do for people; that is, the value that our activities produce.

What value propositions do your staff offer the people your organization supports? What value proposition do your supervisors and front-line managers offer your Direct Support Professionals? (Here’s a hint, it’s not monitoring, correcting, and penalizing.) What value propositions does your organization offer prospective employees? It’s probably more than just pay and benefits.

Other parts of the service sector have been hit hard by the coronavirus, and human service organizations hiring staff for direct support must be ready to capitalize on a possible shift in the labor force. Those of us in leadership know just how rewarding and fulfilling this work can be. Creating a value proposition can help us communicate that better and make sure we’re not wasting our time and other resources.

We don’t have any to waste.