Evaluating on two levels

February 14, 2014

Filed under: Strategic Planning — jonathanpoisner @ 3:14 pm

When talking to organizations about evaluation, I often find myself explaining evaluation on two levels.

These levels ask two related, but different questions.

1.  Did the organization take the specific action steps called for in the Strategic Plan?

2.  Did the organization achieve the Objectives of the Strategic Plan?  This latter question doesn’t ask: did we do what we set out to do?   It asks the equally important question:  Did doing what we set out to do change the world in the way we hoped?

In evaluating whether Objectives were achieved, organizations need to take into account that some Objectives (eg. those related to fundraising) are easily quantified and thus easy to measure.  Other Objectives are more subjective and should be evaluated with the eye of a trial lawyer marshaling facts towards a conclusion.

There will be times when the organization does everything it set out to do, but intervening factors (e.g a recession) will prevent it from accomplishing its Objectives.  Conversely, sometimes organizations fail to implement their tactics, but nonetheless achieve their Objectives because intervening forces are in its favor.

In the end, both levels of evaluation are critical.  If you fail to determine if you did what you set out to do, an organization will develop a culture lacking in accountability.  But if you fail to ask the second question, you may congratulate yourselves on implementing your plan, but learn nothing of value to figuring out what you should be doing in the future.

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