Nut Island Effect

ConclusionIt :- would seem that bringing together a group of hard working, well-intentioned and eveninnovative individuals is not sufficient to produce good results. Moreover, it is also clear thatmeeting minimal government standards is no guarantee of effectiveness. Indeed, such standardsmay be easily circumvented or become the most important and time consuming task of managersin an organization, such that they run the risk of forgetting the true mandate and mission that anorganization might have.

There is a sense in which the Nut Island staff and the senior corporate officers, who wereresponsible for them, should have been obliged to swim and drink of the waters of BostonHarbor on a regular basis. Or at the very least, the regular monitoring of water quality around Nut Island and the health of people along the shoreline might have been good proxy indicators ofhow well they were doing their job.

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Of course, the same applies to human service organizations which are more and moresubjected to a great deal of government scrutiny and where managers and other staff spendincreasing amounts of time meeting government standards, which are not necessarily goodproxy indicators of quality, excellence or effectiveness. The fact that managers of anorganization are likeable and hard working is meaningless until there is outcome data indicatingthat they are truly making a positive difference in the lives of individuals who require andreceive their services.

Thus, one cannot depend on an individual’s or a team’s self-assessment of theiraccomplishments. This is certainly one of the findings often experienced by external evaluators. When evaluation teams give their reports, they should not be surprised when they are met withhowls of disapproval or stony silence. By and large, individual managers, staff and workteams, including those who are hard working and well-intentioned, tend to have self-servingviews of their accomplishments and of the processes they apply and are experts in. Thus, whenthey do receive negative feedback, they tend to dismiss it or react to it with hostility.

On NutIsland, hard work and isolation combined to create a situation where individuals and teams livewithin a fiction where “maintaining the alternate reality that prevailed on Nut Island requiredmore than wishful thinking… It also involved strenuous denials when outsiders pointed outinconvenient facts” . Thus, the necessity of ensuring external scrutiny and evaluation on a periodic basis and theimportance of monitoring output and outcome data combined with a strong sense of objectivecriticism are prerequisites to ensuring effective management. Hard work and good intentions aresimply not enough.

This is particularly relevant in light of the use of concepts such as “bestpractice. ” Too often, concepts such as best practice are nothing more than a consensual way ofidentifying and validating current endeavors and current methodologies in the absence ofeffectiveness data and outside evaluation. What makes them “best” is self-satisfaction and a fairamount of strain and sweat. Quality, excellence and effectiveness however, might be altogetherdifferent and require the ongoing use of outcome/effectiveness indicators and periodic outsideevaluation (Flynn, Lemay, Ghazal & Hebert, in press).

It might, for some, seem like astretch to suggest that industrial management, including this case study of a sewage treatmentplant, has relevance to human service management and program evaluation. However, results,outcomes, evaluation and excellence are themes that one encounters time and again in a varietyof management circles and human enterprise. Moreover, personal and collective effort andgood intentions—not to mention a smidgen of self-interest—seem to everywhere cloud theobjective assessment of quality and outcome

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