In 2019, as part of the Northern Academy's CQI Thought Takeaways video series, Jami Ledoux from Casey Family Programs talked about implementing CQI by transforming the culture that informs the focus within that system. This article is adapted from her presentation, which is available here.
Many people think of continuous quality improvement (CQI) as something that is done to them. For the true potential of CQI to be realized, we need to change this thinking in a way that allows us to believe and represent that every single person within an organization is responsible for CQI. We must believe CQI is everything about the way we operate, regardless of whether we are working with internal or external stakeholders. In short, it must become a part of our culture.
So how do we know that we've created a culture of continuous learning?
- Assess your environment. It's important to assess and determine how people within your organization or system are experiencing their world. Ask yourself: Is our organization/system corrective or punitive in nature; that is, are we learning what's working and what's not working so it can be used to hold someone accountable when something goes wrong? Or are we learning what's working and what's not working so that we can make corrections and do the work better in the future?
- Ensure your environment encourages proactivity. Ask yourself: Is our environment reactive or proactive; that is, are we reviewing data on the back end after things have already occurred to be able to determine how things worked? Or are we consistently reviewing data to be able to get upstream so we can make mid-course corrections as needed to prevent outcomes from trending in the wrong direction?
- Become Outcome-Driven vs. Compliance-Based. Assess whether your system is outcome-driven or compliance-based by looking at your data. What data sets are reviewed on a regular basis? There's certainly a time and an important place for reports that measure things such as the amount of worker visits and timeliness rates for completing investigations, but those things only measure compliance. They tell us nothing about the quality of the work that we're doing. It's important to also have measures that reflect outcomes. These will tell us what is most important—whether what we're doing is making a difference in the lives of children and families. Ask yourself: Does the data we're reviewing reflect our values? We all say that we value children being with families, but are we reviewing data and putting data out there that measures whether we are keeping children with families? Or are we just reviewing data, for example, that tells us once kids come into the system and whether they are exiting in a timely manner?
The field of child welfare is ever evolving. It's critically important to know whether what we're doing is working or not, and if we don't have consistent CQI processes in place, and if we don't have a culture that allows for people to learn from the work that we're doing at every level of the organization, then we're not maximizing our potential related to the data we have available that represents what's working well for children and families.
Additional CQI Thought Takeaways
Visit our Resource Barn to access Jami Ledoux and other presenters' thought takeaway presentations, as well as a wealth of other CQI resources, including Ledoux's full keynote presentation from the 2019 CQI Statewide Conference.
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