Pulse Check: How Healthy is Your Organization?

By: Austin Arias

On a daily basis, many of us check our heart rate to see how we are doing. We may have a smartwatch or step tracker or phone that does this for us and warns us when our numbers drop or get too high. We use this as our guide and when alerted, make the necessary steps to change. Sometimes, it is a small, immediate change. Other times, it is a larger change that takes time but has long term impact.

How can we use this same concept to do a pulse check on our organization? When was the last time we took a moment to step back, assess how we are doing and make a plan to move forward? If you are struggling to answer the question, this is for you.

Here are some tips to do a pulse check with your organization.

  1. Decide what you want to assess. – Do not expect to go into a conversation with your executive board or general membership and expect to discuss every major issue your organization is struggling with. Consider crowdsourcing topics from your membership by having everyone drop a notecard in a basket on the way out of your next meeting. Before the activity, make sure you share with your membership it is a brave space, they do not need to put their name on it and you will not filter the feedback. You want to ensure they know you will take their feedback into consideration. It seems like as simple but then you can utilize an executive board meeting to go through the responses, see trends and then narrow down a topic or two. Be realistic about what you can tackle too!
  2. Decide how you want to have the conversation. – Not every pulse check needs to happen with every single member at one time. Depending on the topic, you may want to solicit individuals to participate in a focus group or break up the membership based on year. Regardless, make sure everyone is able to contribute in some way.
  3. Decide who will record the feedback. – Make sure there are two individuals in every room to take notes and record the feedback. Having two individuals helps to ensure something is not missing and helps you understand how two different individuals interpreted the information. Combine the documents later to ensure there are no gaps.
  4. Decide how to share the feedback with others. – Look for themes in the notes from your conversations. What came up over and over again? You will want to decide what is affecting larger organizational health and what are things that could easily be solved on a smaller, more direct level. It is important for you to synthesize this so you can then share it openly with the rest of the group at your next meeting. Be sure to remind the group that everyone’s experience is unique and no one person’s experience is more or less important or valid.
  5. Decide your plan of action. – This is where the real work comes in. I know, you are probably thinking, “Dang, Austin, this was a lot already!” This is where you can really turn feedback into a plan of action. Your advisor would be a great help during all steps, but especially this one.
    1. What are two or three things you can do to solve the issue? What part of the feedback or theme relates to each action step?
    2. Who is responsible for each part of the plan? How will we hold ourselves accountable?
    3. How will we know we are successful?
    4. How does this relate back to our purpose or goals for the year?

Just like you check your own pulse each day, it is time to check the pulse of your organization. Your pulse check should always be seen as opportunity to live out your mission and values better. Try it now for the upcoming semester. You will not do it perfect the first time, but you will learn a lot along the away and your members will be thankful you have taken the time to improve. It is all about creating a culture where all members feel heard and valued.

You got this, now get to work!