AZENet Week: Making Evaluation in Private Organizations a Best Practice by Deven Wisner

Hi! I’m Deven Wisner of Wisner Analytics, LLC, and Vice President of Communication for the Arizona Evaluation Network board! I have a background in evaluation and industrial-organizational psychology, both of which fuel my passion for bringing data-driven decision making into organizations.

I’m going to chat with you about making evaluation a private (i.e. for profit) organization best practice. I’ll give you an idea of what those projects look like, tips for involving yourself in for-profit evaluation, and my lessons learned. Ready? Here we go!

Lessons Learned: Needs Assessment & Program Evaluation

One client I worked with offered a new set of services derived from perceived client needs. Great, right? Right…kind of. The problem is that their needs weren’t formally identified. In other words, the data to back the decision was non-existent. Luckily, as an evaluator, I’m familiar with being the “afterthought” (and that’s okay, we’re good at saving the day!). So, I developed an after-the-fact needs assessment. We utilized this information, along with other data, to evaluate the programs and, eventually, revise them to meet the needs of their clients.

wooden sign with Awesome and right arrow, less awesome and left arrow
Image credit – Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Lessons Learned: Program & Process Evaluation

As you might know, training programs are often very costly to organizations. For one organization, I became heavily involved with training programs to evaluate their intended outcomes. Additionally, I evaluated the delivery of the training materials to determine whether it was being done as expected! Both components I evaluated are important for developing impactful training programs.

Hot Tips:

  1. Just like you spin your skills for jobs you’re applying for, you need an elevator speech tailored to the audience you’re delivering it to. This means dropping the evaluator-specific jargon and taking the time to figure out what languages are shared and finding synonymous replacements!
  2. Now that you can talk to a variety of audiences, join networking groups you ordinarily wouldn’t. In addition to your Local AEA Affiliate, find breakfast clubs, professional organizations, and leadership development groups to plug into. Know someone part of these groups? Even better, they can make a warm introduction.
  3. Some of my best connections have been made on Twitter and LinkedIn. Individuals in analytics, organizational development, and market research usually share my love for data driven-decision making. Hint: find a few great people in industries you want to become an evaluator in and mine their follow/connection list.
  4. Finally, the low hanging fruit: pitch evaluation to your current for-profit connections. They can tell you where they see value (or don’t) and maybe they’ll even introduce you to their colleagues!

    open book "Adventures and Lessons Learned"
    Image credit – Ryan Graybill on Unsplash

Lessons Learned:

  1. Evaluation is important across disciplines, and to me that means a variety of organizational settings and types, too.
  2. Evaluators are not unfamiliar with capacity building, so creating a strong argument for its inclusion in the business world is the same challenge — it just looks a little different.

Interested in connecting with fellow evaluators in sunny Arizona? Check out the Arizona Evaluation Network’s 2018 From Learning to Practice: Using Evaluation to Address Social Equity conference taking place this April in Tucson, AZ.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Arizona Evaluation Network (AZENet) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our AZENet members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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