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Values-driven transformation.

To transform is to alter the appearance or form of something. It is what artists do on a daily basis. A sculptor looks at a block of marble, sees into the nature of the stone and then, with tools in hand, releases the form inside. We humans play sculptor to each other's stone, each incident, each love, each disappointment--shaping and refining our humanity.

There is a growing awareness that human services organizations must transform how we are structured and managed. We must operate more flexibly and creatively and be more accountable for providing high-quality and client-focused services with smaller budgets. Unfortunately, flexibility and creativity are not part of the political structure in which public agencies are housed.

How then does one push past the rules and regulations of a command-and-control bureaucracy to chart the course for transformation?

People--not bricks and mortar or data systems--make up human services organizations. People are the means, the tools of transformation. Business schools teach us the mechanics of process and strategies such as choosing the right employees, managing by walking around, six sigma, styles of engagement, and adaptive leadership. But employees don't buy any of it unless you touch the core of what they believe and feel is essential. At the end of the day, public servants want meaningful work, a noble cause, to change the world for the better. To energize the field of human services we need to talk about more than systems and concepts and budget constraints. We need to show how transformation improves lives.

The Merced Human Services Agency attracts good people and encourages them to grow because we are a principled, value-centered organization seeking to transform--and improve--lives. New employees are introduced to this culture during orientation. All employees are clear about purpose and how they make a difference in the world. The values and mission of the organization are continuously communicated through training, events, documents, policies, and communication. Values give managers and staff principles and beliefs that guide their work and decisions every day. Employees embrace the agency vision with conviction, excitement, and passion. It is a culture where people believe. They see problems as challenges and leadership is encouraged from everyone, at all levels, to do the right thing.

This type of positive culture will drive whatever you are trying to accomplish and ultimately give you results.

Values provide a framework for activities and operations of an organization, no matter the size.

If we wish to transform our national health and human services system we need a noble vision and inspiring values. That's what moves those of us at the local level--we who do the day-to-day work of delivering human services--to give everything we have to meet the needs of the people we serve.

Energize us so that, like the artist contemplating a blank stone, we can release a new and innovative human services system.

Ana Pagan the director of the Merced County Human Services Agency.

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Title Annotation:Merced Human Services Agency
Author:Pagan, Ana
Publication:Policy & Practice
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Feb 1, 2013
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