IE TIG Week: Combining Evaluation with Process Improvement for Organizational Improvement by Jessica Cargill

Hi, I’m Jessica Cargill, Program Director for Evaluation for the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases at Texas A&M University. In my role, I provide leadership for the evaluation of programs, our strategic plan, and organizational effectiveness initiatives. Prior to my current position, I worked in a medium-sized healthcare system leading process improvement projects. As a matter of fact, it was process improvement that helped me realize my love for evaluation, as the two disciplines are quite similar and have much to lend one another!

A specific organizational improvement project I am working on concerns employee engagement. After conducting an internal pulse survey, our organization was able to determine that communication from leadership was a particular area where we should focus some improvement efforts.

Using the bottom up approach advocated by Lean and other process improvement frameworks, we brought together small teams of employees (without leadership present!) to engage in the Plan, Do, Check, Adjust cycle. First, we defined the problem and conducted a root cause analysis, asking ourselves, “Why do we think communication is poor?” Then, we brainstormed countermeasures which could address the root cause. This comprised the “Plan” phase. Now, we are testing out our countermeasures for the next 3 months (for the “Do” phase), at which time we will “Check” our success by sending out another, shorter survey. If we see improvement, we may look for another topic to focus on; if we don’t see a change, we will reconvene the team and start the cycle again, to “Adjust” our approach and try to find something that works.

My favorite thing about this project is that we are working to improve employee engagement by actively engaging our employees and empowering them to find the solutions to organizational problems. This team-based, bottom-up approach to organizational improvement is why I believe that this project and others like it have been met with enthusiasm and optimism in my workplace, helping us begin to build a true culture of improvement.

Hot Tip:

  1. When discussing sensitive topics, make sure teams are thoughtfully selected to allow for open and honest communication. Sometimes this means meeting with leadership separately, or by placing more reserved individuals with others they are friendly with.

Rad Resources:

  1. Anyone can facilitate improvement projects, Lean Black Belts not required! gives a good introduction of the PDCA cycle and has some user-friendly templates for brainstorming and planning improvement projects of your own. Adapt these to suit your needs and workplace culture.
  2. Lead with Respect by Michael Balle is a readable, narrative-driven book which teaches how to think about organizational improvement from the bottom-up.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Internal Evaluation (IE) Topical Interest Group Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IE 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.

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