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The Strategic Triangle:


Throughout the book, emphasis is on the
strategic triangle:[15] value creation,
enhancing the authorizing environment, and operational capacity building. An
explanation of the three legs of the strategic triangle will be helpful here.


Value
Creation:
  Stakeholders within the agency and external
to it value the protection of children. Value creation, then, starts with
supporting and increasing the level of importance that those stakeholders
attribute to the agency and its activities. How well does the agency protect
children? Beyond this fundamental value, the agency must encourage and, at
times, create value for correlates of effective child protection. Included here
are related resources and activities such as:


·      
Inter-agency
collaboration


·      
Resource
pooling


·      
Additional
low income housing


·      
Expanded
mental health and substance abuse services


·      
Keeping
children safe, in the community, in school, and out of trouble


·      
More
family-centered programs and services


·      
Increased
neighborhood-based resources and opportunities for families and children


Enhancing
the Authorizing Environment
:  When the agency and its activities are
legitimated and supported by elected officials, key stakeholders, other members
of the Children’s Safety Net, the media, and the general public, the
authorizing environment is agency friendly. The agency has authorization to
effectively address key issues and to take advantage of excellence
opportunities. A commonly asked question is, “How much authorization is
needed to move forward?” Fortunately or unfortunately, the answer is,
“Enough.”[16]


Accurately and consistently gauging how much
authorization is enough is a core skill that distinguishes traditional public
administrators from the new leadership. The traditional task of public
administrators is to diligently and conscientiously implement applicable laws
and administrative rules within the legislative and bureaucratic intent.
Alternatively, leadership requires a sustained effort to build individual
relationships with all authorizing stakeholders. Leaders constantly assess the
authorizing environment, assure that stakeholders have accurate and complete
information, and attend carefully to the changing needs of that environment.


Leadership also requires risk-taking. Leaders
must know when to move forward and when to consolidate past advances before
moving forward. They have to carefully assess how much pressure the environment
can productively tolerate, internally and externally. They then need to
maintain that vital level of pressure required to support the new adaptation,
no more, no less.[17]


This is not especially difficult or risky, if
the leader never makes mistakes, never confronts controversial issues, never
makes unpopular decisions, never disappoints influential people, and never
pursues change faster or in directions that cause discomfort. Under those
restraints, the authorizing environment would be quite stable.


If, instead, the leader does make occasional
mistakes, does irritate and frustrate people at times, and does make unpopular
decisions and take controversial actions in children’s interests, the
authorizing environment can become very volatile. At those times, the leader
must draw on authorization reserves. Along with authorization when things are
going well, leaders must maintain authorization reserves for the more difficult
times that inevitably come. This means that continuous enhancement of the authorizing
environment is not only a good idea, it is required just to stay even. To
achieve excellence in child protection, it is absolutely essential.


Operational
capacity building
:  Operational capacity refers to the internal
and external resources required to do what needs to be done. This includes
enough people who have the necessary skills and competencies as well as
sufficient access to needed hard and soft resources. Moreover, both internal
and external people and resources are required to adequately and appropriately
protect children. No single child protection agency has the internal or
organizational capacity to do the job alone. It requires the collective
resources and efforts of every participant in the Children’s Safety Net where
the bottom line is keeping our
children safe. Continuous capacity building is not just important; it is
the essential difference between agencies that achieve excellence and those
that do not.


Which is more important: value,
authorization, or capacity? The reality is that without value, there will be no
authorization. Without authorization, there will be no capacity. Without
capacity, the agency will produce nothing of value. If nothing of value is
produced, there will be no authorization.


Unless a child protection agency’s commitment
is to aggressively pursuing all three legs of the strategic triangle
concurrently, the effort will fall short and the children for whom it is
responsible will not be kept safe. What’s more, to achieve the level of
excellence the children deserve and must have, agency leadership must be:


·      
Mission-focused,
understanding that the agency’s mission incorporates its primary value creation
potential;


·      
Externally
oriented, understanding that although there are important internal
stakeholders, the primary stakeholders in the authorizing environment are
external to the agency;


·      
Opportunity
seeking, understanding that capacity building is, in large measure, dependent
on the leader’s ability to recognize and exploit opportunities to appropriate
resources in the service of abused, neglected, and dependent children.




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