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NA Week: Roger Kaufman on Needs Assessment

For the past five decades Roger Kaufman (RK) has been a leader in the field of needs assessment – contributing 40 books and 200+ articles, and consulting with organizations around the world. He is a professor emeritus from Florida State University and a Distinguished Research Professor, Sonora (Mexico) Institute of Technology. For aea365, Dr. Kaufman spoke with Ryan Watkins, responding to questions that can help guide your needs assessment efforts.

Lessons learned:

Convincing managers that it is worth paying for a needs assessment rather than jumping into the design, implementation, and evaluation of an activity

(RK) This is all about incentives. Ask first “what rewards will you be given and what punishments can you expect for failure?” Simply showing people the costs of not getting the alignment between societal value-added, organizational contributions, and individual and small group can be sobering. One simply has to look at the international companies that have gone bankrupt in the last 20 years reveals that not having this complete alignment can be devastating to all. Of course, one suggesting a needs assessment first and having that rejected will still be blamed if desired results and payoffs are not achieved.

Relationship between needs assessments and evaluations

(RK) Needs assessment is proactive and evaluation is reactive/after-the-fact. Both look at gaps in results and consequences but one attempts to fill the gaps before starting interventions and the other looks at the gaps that have been successfully addressed. Both are vital.

Three additional skills critical for any evaluator to develop before conducting a needs assessment

  1. Understand and perform on the basis of the differences and relationships between needs assessment and evaluation.
  2. Be data and results driven.
  3. Include, align, and integrate all three levels of planning: Mega/societal, Macro/organizational, and Micro/individual and small group.

Role of society in needs assessments and evaluations

(RK) We all live in this shared and shrinking world. We realize that a change in any part of our shared world has potential impacts on all other parts of the world. Organizations are simply means to societal ends and if (as noted by professor emeritus Dale Brethower) if you are not adding value to society you are subtracting value.

Focusing on Mega is not just professionally required, it is also ethical to do so.

Rad resources: For more in-depth guidance, try:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Needs Assessment (NA) Week with our colleagues in the NA AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NA TIG colleagues. 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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