For leaders responsible for leading strategic and performance operations, evaluative thinking helps to ensure managers effectively plan, measure, and report the right information at the right time.

Evaluative thinking enables leaders to tell their performance story at multiple levels within their organisation and enhance organisational effectiveness.

In an LDC clinic, Dr Rowena Brown and Jane Renwick of Evaluation Consult talked about the importance of embedding evaluative thinking to tell an organisation's performance story, support decision making and inform continuous improvement. Evaluation should be embedded in business as usual so that an organisation can effectively plan, monitor and report on performance without impacting on delivering results.

Emphasis was placed on continual evaluation. Continual evaluation during a programme enables you to see how well you are performing and adjust accordingly, either by building on success or correcting underperformance. If employees see that they are contributing to success, they are more likely to be engaged in their work.

Rowena and Jane discussed the importance of effective communication and collaboration within teams and organisations and across agencies to ensure that meaningful data is collected and that activities contribute to high-level strategic goals.

Embedding evaluation in an organisation's day-to-day activities often requires a cultural shift, and leaders need be able to engage with and promote this way of working for it to be successfully implemented. 

An iterative approach to evaluation

Rowena and Jane presented a three-phase cyclical approach:

1.    Planning phase

Before commencing a programme, it is important for organisations to identify what success looks like and what they are setting out to achieve. In a performance model, this phase takes place at the top strategic level. The strategic outcomes often inform the outcomes, outputs and inputs at other levels (e.g. department or programme level). Key indicators can be identified and established to align to relevant aspects of the model that has been developed.

2.    Monitoring phase

The performance model outlining the inputs, outputs and outcomes is often incorporated into a measurement framework, which provides a systematic approach to recording quantitative and qualitative data against key indicators in the model.

Rowena and Jane emphasised that you do not need to measure everything all at once. Rather, it is important to be pragmatic and select the key indicators in the first instance to be able to demonstrate success at each level and ensure you have the appropriate resources and capability. 

3.    Change phase

During the change phase, data from the monitoring phase is reported to demonstrate results and inform adjustments and improvements. Key questions that should be answered during this phase include: Is the programme relevant, efficient, effective, sustainable and having an impact? Is this positive or negative, intended or unintended? Do we need to make adjustments or even continue at all? And what lessons have we learned?

As this evaluation process is iterative, a renewed planning phase is then informed by decisions made during the change phase, and the cycle begins again, repeating as many times as is necessary over the life of a programme.