Accreditation & Self Assessment
Prepare A Proposal. Before conducting the self assessment, the director should consider the need for a formal proposal or appropriate approvals from the chief elected or appointed official. The proposal may be prepared by the director or the program manager.
The proposal should outline the benefits of conducting a self assessment and discuss the approximate cost and staff resources necessary to complete the project. The director should spend considerable time reviewing the proposal to ensure that realistic expectations are established.
Select a Manager.The responsibility for choosing a manager for the self assessment program rests with the agency's director. The director should consider the following qualities when making a decision:
- Experience in many facets of the agency. An employee who has spent time in more than one division or department has a broader insight into the workings of the agency as a whole, and will understand the potential impact of various plans of action on individual areas. Such a candidate is also well-equipped to appoint agency personnel who are most qualified to assist in the process.
- Working knowledge of agency rules and regulations.
- Compatibility with the director's management style and personality.
- Ability to work well with people on all levels.
- Ability to administer, plan, organize and train.
- Willingness to make significant decisions, delegate tasks, and accept responsibility.
- Commitment to the self assessment project through to the end. Turnover in this position could result in a loss of momentum or slippage of the project.
- Ability to devote additional effort to successful completion of the project.
Hands-on Manager. Appoint either a section or division manager because of familiarity with making assignments and setting deadlines. Persons of higher rank may be too far removed from day-to-day operations.
Hiring from the Outside. Agencies may be able to attain success with managers who have had considerable related experience in other agencies. This approach enables the agency the advantage of bringing a fresh perspective to the self assessment process.
Caution should be used when bringing an "outsider" into the organization. To do so might create mistrust and resentment of the existing staff. Conversely, the team may be excited to work with a well respected expert who can bring insight into what has worked well in other agencies.
Individual or Team Management. Depending on the size of the organization, the director may want to consider appointing an assistant or team to work with the program manager. This team should add expertise, provide different perspectives and help assure the active involvement of agency personnel.
Full-Time vs. Part-Time. Unless the agency has the resources to support a full-time position, the program manager will have to handle their normal duties plus the additional organizational responsibilities associated with self assessment. Agencies who designate the activity on a part-time basis are likely to lengthen the time required to complete the process.
There is no best way to proceed. Some agencies will find it best to sequester a full-time manager from the mainstream of operational responsibilities. Others may adopt a team approach. Both will be successful if only if the entire organization is committed to the process.
Prepare An Operational Plan
Time Frame. Most agencies will require several months to complete the self assessment procedure. Many will need a significantly longer period if factors such as budget constraints delay new activities necessary for compliance with the management practices.
Operational Plan. The director should prepare an operational plan describing the tasks that must be accomplished and a logical sequence. Following the steps set forth in this manual, the program manager should prepare a draft "road map" indicating how, when and by whom each task should be performed. The director should present the plan to as many staff members as practical to obtain input and buy-in.
Budget Preparation. The project manager should prepare a detailed budget, including both day-to-day office expenses and estimated additional investments in equipment, personnel, etc. The extent to which an agency prepares a budget and format will depend on the agency's requirements and the intended use of the self assessment process.
Expenses can be segregated into at least two areas: "diversion of resources", those expenses which the agency would have incurred with or without the self assessment program; and "additional expenses", costs incurred solely as a result of self assessment. Examples of expenses which could fall into either category are as follows:
- Office space and equipment
- Printing and photocopying
During self assessment, expenses will also be incurred in order to bring the agency into compliance with proper management practices. Though more difficult to estimate at this stage, provisions should be made for items such as:
- Additional computer equipment (required for inventory and work management activities)
- Career development programs
- Safety training
- Renovated records-keeping systems
- Public Information programs
DEVELOP A PROCESS
(NOTE: The discussion of record keeping that follows is primarily aimed at those agencies who are interested in pursuing accreditation. Agencies that are using the self assessment process as a vehicle for improving their operation and management, may want to consider less rigorous methods of documenting their progress. Agencies desiring recognition for completing a self assessment program will still need detailed documentation for their presentation to their elected body and to APWA.)
Creation of Forms. Excellent documentation is one of the essential elements of a successful self assessment program. One of the most important elements of solid documentation is a standard, easy-to-use form. A recommended Individual Practice Status Report form is included in the appendices. The compliance form will be used by agency personnel to measure the current level of compliance to standards set forth in the Management Practices manual.
Setting up Filing System.Each practice or group of practices should have its own file folder. This applies to every practice contained in the Management Practices manual, whether applicable to your agency or not. The agency should consider using a data base or other software to develop a tracking system.
Each file should be numbered to correspond with the number of the practice, and contain the following:
- A photocopy of the management practice, including both text (italicized) and commentary (explanation).
- The completed compliance form.
- Proof of compliance through directives and other written documentation.
If documents are to serve as proof of compliance, additional information should be provided, in many cases, to show that the existence of a given directive provides proof that the agency is in compliance. Therefore, a complete file should include not only a memo mandating a certain action (for example, the preparation of a certain report) but proof of compliance with that action (the report itself.
Other Files and Logs. Chapter File Folders. Set up a file folder for each chapter in addition to the individual practice folders. These folders may be used to store (1) compliance documentation applicable to the chapter but not yet ready for insertion into the individual practice folder, (2) documentation common to more than one practice or (3) research material relevant to developing proofs of compliance for one or more of the chapter's practices. Chapter folders should also contain a copy of the log to track the chapter self assessment process.
Monitoring Log. Keeping track of the compliance process is made easier with a master log, stating which practices have been documented, and whether or not the agency is in compliance with them. The log should be kept by the program manager. Copies may be kept in Chapter files or by designated personnel.
Cross-reference List (optional.) You may also want to consider setting up a chart or computer file that cross-references applicable practices with their compliance documentation and vice versa. Doing so permits an agency to identify quickly what practice should be checked when, for example, a general order or procedure is undergoing revision. Just as importantly, if an individual practice should be revised through new editions of Management Practices, a cross-reference listing will help the agency immediately pinpoint the affected documents or directives.
Empower and Delegate.The agency can use either a centralized or decentralized approach to organize the documentation-preparation effort.
The Centralized Approach. This approach restricts involvement to a relatively small number of individuals. For example, the director may decide to assign a small number of personnel, well-versed in many areas of responsibility, to review all m a n a g e m e n t practices, and to develop all documentation. The advantage of this approach is that it cuts down on the amount of people involved, thereby reducing the amount of training required, and the length of time needed to complete the process. This approach is recommended mainly for large agencies.
The Decentralized Approach. An easy way to get most of the staff involved and dedicated to the process is through a decentralized effort. This approach seeks to include as many agency personnel as feasible, taking into consideration factors such as agency size, geographic restrictions, number of specialized functions, and effective control by the self assessment manager. For instance, units which are geographically separated should have at least one employee that is knowledgeable about the applicable Management Practices.
In very small agencies, a core team, appointed by the program manager may be sufficient. Larger agencies may want to assign the majority of the work to mid-managers of departments and divisions, or to management analysts.
The self assessment data gathering can be best facilitated at the department or division manager levels. The practices should be separated according to each agency's unique organizational structure. After the practices are separated by functional area, the managers should get together with the program manager to establish the timetable and discuss the deliverables.
Using the decentralized approach, the program manager usually deals directly with a coordinator at department head level, who in turn delegates follow-through and documentation responsibilities to several staff. If an outside agency is responsible for fulfilling a certain management function, documentation preparation should be assigned to someone within that agency.
In choosing the decentralized approach, an agency automatically accomplishes one of the essential elements for program success: involvement by as many people on as many levels as possible. The advantages of widespread involvement include:
- Increased participation generates cooperation and improves morale.
- Familiarity with the program and its goals helps build support for subsequent changes. Document preparation is completed by those staff members most familiar with the particular functions cited.
Training. To assure that documentation preparation is effective, the director and program manager should develop a plan to train involved personnel. The training sessions should include the following:
- How to use the Management Practices manual.
- Explanation of the manual's format (practice statement and commentary.)
- Scope of the project and schedule.
- Individual staff member's responsibilities including: - research requirements - how to prepare written policies and procedures - how to document compliance with recommended practices.
- Acceptable proof of compliance, if seeking accreditation.
Monitoring and Reviewing Documentation.This is the point to decide how best to monitor the self assessment program. In other words, who shall keep track of the documentation process and who shall review and approve completed documentation.
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