One of the biggest misconceptions about evaluations is that their primary purpose is to fix problems. Short-term improvements are one of the benefits of an evaluation for sure, but they are far from their only intended outcome.
When the Public Works Partners team is engaged to begin an evaluation–whether it be an organizational evaluation, implementation study, or a single program evaluation–we set out to develop systems, processes, and metrics that allow our clients to see continuous improvement, not just a momentary boost.
At the center of a successful evaluation are feedback loops that allow for continuous reflection and reorientation. Process with Purpose, our firm’s proven methodology, reflects this cycle. Process with Purpose is cyclical because it works in multiple layers. A common misstep in evaluations is that organizations often move forward with their first set of conclusions without digging deeper to understand the roots of what they have observed. For instance, an initial review may reveal that a core stakeholder group is not engaging as expected with an organization’s programming. This could be due to communication strategies that do not meet the needs of the population in question, a mismatch between programming and community needs, or something else entirely. Our evaluations continue digging into the layers of a challenge, ensuring that we not only identify the challenge, but develop specific solutions, tracking metrics, and outcome-oriented recommendations tailored to the particularities of the organization.
EXAMPLE: if a firm’s program evaluation quickly identifies a shortcoming in program communication, the evaluation should not end there. Rather, it should refocus on the question of messaging: collecting stakeholder feedback, finding comparable programs, and developing steps forward to resolve messaging shortcomings. The evaluation should also provide trackable metrics to ensure future shortcomings are identified and addressed quickly.
Executing this cyclical process requires uniform and continuous data collection beyond the scope of an evaluation. Evaluations should create a culture of continuous improvement by integrating data collection with trackable and usable metrics to consistently evaluate program success and provide actionable feedback through data. This is the key to improvement and, ultimately, innovation.
Developing feedback loops in your organization that provide consistent performance feedback unlocks innovation by tracking where you’re succeeding, but more importantly, where you’re falling short. If you can clearly measure where your organization is falling short, you’ll be able to respond creatively to challenges before they affect your organization’s long-term success. The actionable feedback consistent evaluation provides is invaluable in creating successful and efficient organizations.
Curious how an evaluation could set your organization up for long-term success? Contact Aurelia Aceves Hogan who leads our Evaluation & Research services. She would love to walk you through our proven methodology to set organizations up for sustainable, long-term growth.