AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | action

My name is Trina Willard and I am the Principal of Knowledge Advisory Group, a small consulting firm that provides research and evaluation services to nonprofits, government agencies and small businesses.  With nearly two decades of work in the evaluation field under my belt, I’ve had many opportunities to engage leaders in discussions about evaluation and organizational development.  Across all sectors, executives and leadership teams almost always identify benefits to evaluation, but likewise disclose concerns.  Today I’d like to address one of the most common objections I hear:

“But we can’t evaluate!  What if the results are bad?”

Let’s face a stone cold fact: every organization has at least some room for improvement. Are the leaders you work with concerned about measuring results because they fear evaluation may reveal that their organizations aren’t flawless?  If so, their organizations are vulnerable to risks that could blindside leaders when they ultimately come to light, perhaps publicly.  As evaluators, how do we make the case to clients and colleagues that bad results aren’t actually so…bad?  These three strategies have worked well for me in my consulting practice.

Hot Tip #1:  Give an example.  We all have a cautionary tale of an organization that resisted evaluation and paid dearly for it, perhaps from personal experience.  Use it.

Hot Tip #2:  Paint the picture for change.  Revelations about products, programs or services that feel negative or problematic are often seen as threats.  However, reframing that notion, to one of opportunity, can be very valuable in altering the leadership perspective.  Committing to an evaluation does not suggest a willingness to demonstrate failure; it demonstrates a willingness to always improve.

Hot Tip #3:  Challenge the choice of reaction versus action.  Be direct and ask this question: “Do you really want to wait until a problem takes root, jeopardizing your organization’s future before you begin to examine what needs to be improved? Or do you want to know now, so you can address it before it’s too late?”

What tips do you use to encourage leaders to face their fears and evaluate, thereby driving organizational decision-making and future success?

Rad Resource:  Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results by Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris and Robert Morison.   Look inside to discover numerous examples of how leaders use data to make decisions, across organizations with diverse circumstances and analytic capabilities.

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.


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