EPE TIG Week: Culture of Evaluation and Measurement by Jeff Danter

Hello, I’m Jeff Danter, Senior Vice President from The Trust for Public Land. Peter Drucker famously said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This is especially true when considering the utility of evaluation and measurement for management decision-making. For evaluation and measurement data to be effective in influencing strategy, an organization must possess a management culture that values these types of data; that is, the culture must exhibit a certain readiness to receive and act on the results of evaluation strategies. Ultimately leaders must seek to align culture, goals, strategy, and evaluation to effectively achieve organizational mission.

My organization has been building parks and conserving land for people for more than 40 years. Recently, we have sharpened the focus of our work in cities with the goal to put a quality park within a 10-minute walk of everyone living in urban areas (87% of all Americans). This goal represents a dramatic change in how we think about strategy. We have always known that quality parks deliver many benefits to communities, and that the process of building parks can be impactful on civic culture. As such, historically, mission success was measured as completion of quality parks – no additional information was necessary.

Use of quantitative measurement tools was not initially embraced as core to the work of the organization. To fully utilize the power of these new tools, leadership needed to make changes that would align the culture with both the 10-minute walk goal and the quantitative techniques that measure goal attainment. This cultural change has been a critical component implementing the new goal and strategies. Ultimately, it is the alignment of culture, goals, strategy, and data that leads to high mission performance. Attending to organization culture, then, is a critical and often under-valued component of successful evaluation and measurement. Evaluators and senior leaders must collaborate on a shared vision of the culture that embraces quantification of mission outcomes.

Lessons Learned:

Cultural change was addressed by folding data from these tools into the daily working of the organization. Project approvals, funding proposals, board presentations, and internal communications required the presentation of these data. While this seems a simple change, it represented a significant departure from previous norms. In creating the new culture, demand for new and better tools was also created.

Rad Resources:

To support the new 10-minute walk goal, The Trust for Public Land has developed several sophisticated measurement tools that guide all phases of our work, including communities to work in, site selection, community engagement processes, park design, and community benefits. These tools include cutting edge mapping tools that include social, environmental, and health data, as well as more traditional measurement and evaluation approaches. Cross functional teams created these tools as new organizational strategies were developed.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Environmental Program Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the Environmental Program Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our EPE 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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