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Doing It Right? Or Doing The Right Thing? What’s The Question?

  • “Would you tell me, please which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice.
  • “That depends a good deal on where you want to go to,” replied the Cat.
  • “I don’t much care where” said Alice.
  • “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“Do it right,” and “Do it right- the first time” fill the newsprint and airwaves as American enterprise stresses its concern for quality. The assumption is that these organizations, unlike Alice, know where they want to go. With a clear direction, they focus attention on the issues of efficiency and effectiveness. The organization attempts to expend as few resources as possible (efficiency) to accomplish the desired outcome (effectiveness). Some providers in human services have adopted the “doing it right theme.”

The concern for “doing it right” focuses attention on methods and technology. An exclusive concern on “doing it right” can also lead to a preoccupation on internal process measures of quality and a separation of the process from the purpose of the program. Like Alice, the concern centers on moving down the road and not on where the road is leading.

“Doing the right thing” reflects a concern for mission, purpose and urgency.

In contrast, “doing the right thing” is a matter of values, priorities, and a knowledge of the goals, hopes, and expectations of people with disabilities – such as through the Personal Outcome Measures®. “Doing the right thing” reflects a concern for mission, purpose and urgency.

Service organizations don’t ask the “doing the right thing” question as often as they should. Changes in the hopes and goals of individuals served, new technology, evolving public policy, and shifting values and assumptions about people with disabilities necessitate a regular re-questioning. Basic missions and purpose, valid in the past, may need redefinition now.

The confusion between “doing it right” and “doing the right thing” shows up in the organization’s ongoing planning process. “Doing the right thing” is a strategic planning question. The organization examines the external environment, its own resources and capabilities, and the hopes and goals of the individuals it serves (or might serve) and asks the questions of what it should be in the future. The strategic question is loaded with vision, possibilities, and purpose.

Long range planning begins once the strategic issues are clearly identified. Long range planning involves projections and financing, staffing, individuals with disabilities, and state and federal trends.

A concern for quality requires attention to both strategic (doing the right thing) and long range (doing it right) planning. However, without a close examination of the strategic questions, organizations are, like Alice in Wonderland, content to walk any road. In that case, well executed long range plans may actually assist the organization to become more efficient at doing the wrong thing.

CQL’s quality enhancement program can assist organizations to “do the right thing” because it focuses attention on the extent to which the organization’s services match the hopes and goals of individuals with disabilities. CQL recognizes that changing political and financial circumstances interact with new program designs and increasing expectations about people with disabilities to produce innovative programs. Strategic planning is taking place and service providers are “doing the right thing.”

We see excellence as we work with service providers throughout the CQL Accreditation process. A concern with values and “doing the right thing” is making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.