Some years ago I worked for two different counselling agencies, one British the other American. They both offered their clients the same number of free sessions, paying the counsellors a set fee per session.
One had a webpage of counsellors that clients could chose from, gave the authorisation code to the client; the client chose a counsellor and gave the code to them. Client and counsellor met for the allocated number of sessions and at the end of the contract the counsellor invoiced and the organisation paid up within 10 days or so.
The other took a lengthy history and allocated a counsellor – the client had very little choice about who they met. Paperwork became part of every session - one form at the beginning of the session one at the end - which far from offering any kind of meaningful data gathering was used simplistically to demonstrate whether the client was getting better or refusing to take this generous and important opportunity to address their problems. I had to speak with the agency half way through the sessions so that they could determine if their money was being spent well. There was always pressure to break client confidentiality. The agency routinely took 5 months to pay invoices, often significantly longer.
These are difficult days for most organisations and everyone wants to maximise efficiency. It can be tempting to want to control every and anything that moves but, as the examples show, that is likely to add whole new – and expensive – layers of management.
The American company is getting rid of a layer of specialist management by computerising their processes. Now a programme will decide whether a client can be allowed to continue receiving counselling. This still involves huge cost and disruption and still involves paying specialists – this time techies to deal with the inevitable problems – and reduces vulnerable people to computer code.
There’s a real difference between having a tight set of procedures so that everything works efficiently, and teetering on the verge of panic all day long. Nothing is foolproof and it’s very well worth remembering that vital adage:
Hard Cases Make Bad Law.
Put simply: Stuff Happens: React Proportionately.
Of course, where you are dealing with situations where lives can be put at risk then attending to minute detail is important but proportionately few of us are in that bracket. Most management changes are made to save money and, paradoxically, it almost always results in greater expenditure. In the case of the American counselling organisation, they’re already swiftly losing trust from staff and clients. What price do you put on that?
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