Independent in All Things, Neutral in Nothing

Beneficiary-Driven Approach to Reinvention

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One challenge I have come across again and again in my career concerns how organizations resist the seemingly inevitable decline into mediocrity over time. I have witnessed this phenomenon in both the private and public sectors. Organizations or programs become so entrenched in doing business a certain way and viewing the world in a certain way, that as the external world evolves, they risk falling behind and becoming irrelevant.

How does an organization prevent such unnecessary stagnation from happening? One of the most interesting ideas I have run across is to take a ‘beneficiary-driven’ approach.  Developed by Alan Minton of The Track Group, this particular model demands that the organization review its assumptions about its beneficiaries, thereby fostering a deeper understanding about beneficiaries. Program delivery or organizational mission can then be re-positioned for true service to all clients. (This post offers just a summary of Mr. Minton’s idea; readers who wish to read the white paper elaborating on the details can find it here.)

Let’s examine organ donation as an example to help explain the beneficiary-driven approach. Most people would agree that organ donation saves lives and creates real benefits for the beneficiary, and most would also agree that increased organ donation is in the interest of the public good.

While the purpose of an organ donation program is to save lives, I challenge you to consider how organ donation is approached in the United States. Long waiting lists exist for available organs, and inevitably thousands die each year waiting for a much-needed transplant. Although many reasons drive this imbalance, a major reason is that at present, the definition of a beneficiary is narrowly constrained to the organ recipient.

Perhaps a more expansive redefining of ‘beneficiaries’ might begin to expose the unfortunate cause of long waiting lists and provide us an insight as to how we can meet the current overwhelming demand. For example, the creation of innovative approaches to encourage organ donations  might directly follow if we were to treat living donors as beneficiaries. If we were to permit donors themselves to go to the top of recipient lists when they come to require organ transplants, I think we could very well see a surge in donations.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, programs like the one just mentioned — among others — have been implemented in foreign countries. The results have been dramatic, as some nations have seen the elimination of recipient waiting lists for many organs, thereby saving many lives each year.

I do not aim to champion any particular solution to the organ donation problem. I note it simply to demonstrate the potential impact which the beneficiary-driven approach has on re-assessing program delivery and organizational mission. I believe it forces a re-assessment of deeply entrenched standard operating procedures, assumptions, constraints and priorities. Unless such a re-evaluation is occasionally implemented, organizations can too easily lose touch with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Or, in the case of the public sector, government-run programs can too easily lose touch with the intended recipients of their services. A beneficiary-driven approach helps break through potentially harmful and deeply held assumptions, thereby potentially leading an organization to radically reform and improve its mission and performance.


Written by Russell S.

March 17, 2010 at 6:38 pm

One Response

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  1. Interesting post


    March 17, 2010 at 7:52 pm

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