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Keeping Focused While Allowing for Change

Successful initiatives balance a focus on resolving one or two issues at a time with their bigger, longer-term vision of change. It is critical in the initiative’s early phases to scan, understand and discuss the many workforce related issues and needs that are facing the industry, but no initiative can take on every issue all at once. Your initiative should prioritize one or two issues to tackle in the short term.

"It has also been the SOURCE's experience that the partnership should only focus on resolving one issue or need when it first launches, rather than try to take on all issues and needs. As the partnership evolves it becomes more agile in being able to address two-three key issues, but even then they should be prioritized and focused otherwise it leads to chaos and inertia."

Every initiative evolves over time, and should be guided to do so. The evolution of your initiative should be guided by re-visiting goals, strategies and long term impacts regularly. This is where early attention to desired outcomes and impacts will pay off. If partners, especially employers, see that the initiative is integrating new information and appropriate changes in course, while sticking to established priorities, the initiative will be recognized for its responsiveness, flexibility, and focused approach. This means higher rates of employer engagement and partner commitments over time.

Use the "Pick and Stick" Approach

It is the intermediary’s responsibility to facilitate prioritization of key issues as well as remind partners of how those issues directly connect to the greater impact that the initiative wants to achieve. The “Pick and Stick” principle is one way to achieve these complementary goals, and is simply a reminder to “pick” one or two priority issues, and “stick” with them until some resolution is achieved.

Often, a “plan on a page” is a valuable tool to help partners focus on their priorities, the timelines they have set for themselves, and how actions within those priority areas connect to longer-term impacts or the partnership’s overall vision. A “roadmap” that shows what’s been done so far, what is next, and longer term impacts is another mechanism to present similar information. Alternatively, activity reports can describe accomplishments and makes next steps and desired achievements, especially when they include timelines or short-term scopes of work.

Pay Close Attention to Employer Members

It can be easy for an initiative to get lost in its own process. You will know this is happening when employers start dis-engaging. While turnover is natural in an initiative, if your partnership begins to see fall-off of more than a few employer members in a short period of time, consider this a red flag. Re-evaluate whether your activities are directly connected to the partnership’s mission and desired long term outcomes, and check to see that your mission, desired outcomes and actions all have clear and direct value to industry. Some inititiaves have used satisfaction surveys of their members to guide partnership priorities.

Top 3 Reasons for Lack of Industry Participation:

    * Activities or core mission has little Perceived VALUE;
    * Lack of appropriate engagement or use of members’ TIME;
    * The PROCESS or structure of the partnership is perceived as ineffective.

Sure-Fire Ways to Lose Industry Interest

    * Work without a clear strategic plan or set of deliverables/outcomes;
    * Resolve someone else’s problems;
    * Focus on process not outcomes;
    * Focus on what we can learn not what we can solve;
    * Pretend issues and activities are “one size fits all.”

Source: Washington State Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, Anatomy of a Skill Panel Powerpoint presentation