BLP TIG Week: Michelle Baron on The Importance of Strategic Planning in Building a Culture of Evaluation

Hello! I’m Michelle Baron, an Independent Evaluation Strategist. In my work in higher education, I’ve encountered a mixture of evaluation champions and critics. Today I’d like to address the importance of strategic planning in building a culture of evaluation.

Strategic planning is considered by many to be an organizational road map by outlining the organizational vision and mission, establishing clear and attainable objectives and goals, and then developing processes for how to achieve them.    Strategic planning and evaluation go hand in hand in moving the organization and its programs forward to benefit its stakeholders. Strategic planning is simply crucial to the evaluation process: without a road map of criteria, standards, and goals, it’s almost impossible to achieve desired success.

Evaluators have a unique role in helping organizations with both ends of the spectrum: creating a foundation through strategic planning, and then conducting evaluations to examine and monitor progress.

Hot Tip #1: Start at the top. Buy-in from top management for strategic planning is of the utmost importance for its success.

Hot Tip #2: Conduct a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) of the entity or its programs/services. Doing so not only enlightens people to a variety of ideas and questions to consider, but can also indicate the level of support for those topics.

Cool Trick: Brainstorming sessions are often an excellent starting point for the organization itself or smaller group within that organization. The evaluator or designated member of the organization can facilitate the discussion by developing questions beforehand that may serve as prompts for the discussion, such as those dealing with objectives, goals, and resources.

Rad Resource #1: Strategic Planning for Public & Nonprofit Organizations by John Bryson, and related books by the same author, provide the groundwork and tools necessary for organizations to develop and sustain their strategic planning process.

Rad Resource #2: The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter Senge helps leaders establish the foundation and philosophy behind strategic planning, and helps them develop their long-term thinking for organizational growth.

With these tools and resources, evaluators may be more prepared to assist organizations in strategic planning, and have more support for and effectiveness of the evaluations for the organizations.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Business, Leadership and Performance (BLP) TIG Week with our colleagues in the BLP AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our BLP TIG 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.


3 thoughts on “BLP TIG Week: Michelle Baron on The Importance of Strategic Planning in Building a Culture of Evaluation”

  1. Hello Ms. Baron,
    My name is Kerri and I am a student in the Master of Education program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
    My current course in Program Inquiry and Evaluation has assigned us group project and my portion is to investigate the author! We love your work and practical tips and tricks for evaluators in any realm.
    This AEA blog is the closest I can get to obtaining any accessory information regarding your educational and professional history.
    Could you please share some of that information for us?
    Many thanks

  2. Hello Ms. Baron,

    My name is Megha Khulbe and I am a student in the Professional Master of Education program at Queen’s University. Currently, I am taking a course on Program Inquiry and Evaluation. Your post on “The Importance of Strategic Planning in Building a Culture of Evaluation” was intriguing. I am new to the field of evaluation, but I have a background in business and education. Your description of strategic planning in an organization made a lot of sense. I connected this to what we have learned in our course around the use of program theory and logic models as a basis for theory driven evaluations. The concise, yet informative formats that we have explored in our course seem imperative to program success and continual enhancement. Identifying and organizing the various parts of the action and change models provides a clear visual and solid foundation to develop the most relevant and useful evaluation plan. Solid strategic planning is at the core of program success and a compelling basis for continual improvement.

    Thank you for your tip about using the SWOT(strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. The idea seems simple, yet it highlights key areas for questioning and investigation. This approach can support analysis in various levels of organizations and focus concerns from numerous stakeholders. This is a great tool and I will certainly be using this as I develop my program plan for my course work. It was also informative when you connected the idea of strategic planning to organizational learning. Areas of improvement can be more readily acknowledged when they are strategically planned and identified. It seems that incorporating program monitoring strategies into a strategic plan can improve long term growth and learning of an organization.

    I understand that evaluators are frequently being asked to be involved during program planning and initial implementation phases. However, as an external evaluator, how can you influence or encourage better strategic planning if you are not involved with the program planning from the beginning? How do you mitigate the absence of a strong, strategic program plan when conducting an evaluation? I recognize that this is an expansive topic, but I would appreciate any insights you may have. Thank you very much.

    Megha Khulbe

  3. The information you listed was very helpful. I would like to learn more from you about using evaluations as a way to make a business stronger and how you work with individual’s that are negative to proposed changes. Have you ran into any problems like this?

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