Stage 1: Describe context

stage 1The goal of this stage is for the OPQ team to understand the overall context within which the OPQ process will take place. This includes the organization’s mission, strategic goals and priorities, structure and culture; the external environment surrounding the organization (or facility); and the perspectives of employees/health workers and the clients and communities served by the organization. The OPQ team should gather background information from existing reference documents and talk to stakeholder groups to answer questions such as:

  • What are the organization’s mission and strategic goals?
  • What is the organization’s structure? Who will need to approve the use of OPQ and its activities to solve problems? How are decisions made at various levels?
  • What are the existing organizational systems, services, and resources that may support the OPQ process?
  • Who wants to use the OPQ process to improve performance and quality?
  • What is the organization’s readiness for change? What are potential barriers to organizational change?
  • How does the cultural context of the organization and the clients/communities it serves affect employees and the organization’s ability to perform up to standard?
  • What is the connection between the organization’s mission/goals and national health goals, policies, standards, regulations, and scopes of work?
  • What other agencies (e.g., competitors) are active in the area? What are they doing and what have been their outcomes?
  • What are potential infrastructural or logistical constraints?
  • What is the organization’s mix of employees, skills, and perspectives?
  • What are the characteristics (socioeconomic, educational), needs, and perspectives of the clients and communities that the organization serves?

Familiarity with these contextual characteristics can help with other stages, such as:

  • Identifying appropriate stakeholders for the process (Stage 2)
  • Defining desired performance (Stage 3)
  • Identifying acceptable interventions/solutions that will contribute to the sustainability of the process results (Stage 4 and Stage 5)
  • Managing change within the organization when solutions to performance problems are introduced (Stage 5)

Steps There are no specific steps for Stage 1. Rather, use the list of Questions for Gathering Background Information on the Context as a guide for information-gathering. If your OPQ team is large, you may want to summarize your findings and share them with stakeholders in a meeting and/or written communication. Stages 1 and 2 may actually occur at the same time or in reverse order. Clarification of the organizational goal(s) that the OPQ process will help achieve is an important outcome of Stage 1 and Stage 2 combined.