OL-ECB Week: Michele Tarsilla on Results-Based Management (RBM) vs. Evaluation

Hello! My name is Michele Tarsilla, an independent evaluation advisor and evaluation capacity development (ECD) specialist with experience in over thirty countries. I have served as Chair of the International and Cross-Cultural Evaluation TIG at AEA and am currently in transition to become the new OL-ECB TIG Co-Chair.

The idea for this blog sprang from the realization that decision- and policy-makers participating in a number of ECD initiatives around the world are not always cognizant of the differences between evaluation (whose purposes and methods have often been exposed to only for a couple of years) and Results-Based Management (RBM) which they have been taught for almost two decades. As a result, the evaluation logic is often associated with the practice of developing logical frameworks (a phenomenon I refer to as “RBM-ization of the evaluation function”) and the potential of cross-pollination between both fields has not been fully capitalised. In an effort to fill the knowledge gap, I developed a table on links between evaluation and RBM (see a snapshot of the actual tool I developed for the OECD/DAC Newsletter and check out Rad Resource #1).

RBM vs. Evaluation (Tarsilla, 2014)

Tarsilla 1

Tarsilla 2

While I used to stress the intrinsic diversity between evaluation and RBM (e.g., by presenting evaluation as a radically new and more extensive endeavor than RBM has ever been), I came to change my position on this topic over the last year.

Lesson Learned: I have come to terms with the fact that, for an ECD programme to be designed and implemented successfully, the language used in evaluation workshops, mentoring programmes and technical assistance sessions needs to build upon the terminology, processes and tools (e.g., RBM-related) which clients and partners in the field are already familiar with. This renewed “ECD opportunism”, has proved to be quite effective in my professional practice. Trainees and clients exposed to this approach appear to have assimilated, retained and used evaluation concepts and tools more effectively.

Hot Tip #1: I strongly suggest recognition of the purposes (and related concept and tools) of RBM and performance management every time you are developing evaluation workshop curricula and designing evaluation technical assistance programmes, especially those aimed at planning and management specialists.

Hot Tip #2: It is critical to ensure that evaluation methodologies and concepts disseminated as part of an ECD programme fit within the realm of leaders’ existing results-driven management practices. This new strategy, which I call the “normalization of the evaluation function”, appears to help avoid the risk of rejection and apathy.

Rad Resources:

  • For a more exhaustive review of contemporary ECD practices in international development, visit http://www.oecd.org/dac/evaluation/ecdnewsletter.htm
  • For a an in-depth analysis of a selected number of ECD-related issues, visit http://www.ecdg.net/projects-partnerships/ecd-global-scan/ecd-weekly-blog-series/
  • For a review of international ECD initatives funded by international funders in Africa, see Tarsilla, M. (2014). Evaluation capacity development in Africa: Current landscape of international partners’ initiatives, lessons learned and the way forward. African Journal of Evaluation, 2, 34-58

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) Topical Interest Group Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our OL-ECB 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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