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CHAPTER ELEVEN Performance-Based EvaluationTools, Techniques, and Tips

Judith A. Hale

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This chapter focuses on six rules and their associated tools, techniques, and tips for measuring the magnitude of problems and the effect of solutions so that the evaluations are more evidence-based, that is, they are based on actual observations or outcomes, not hypothetical events or hearsay. Collectively, the rules, tools, techniques, and tips are meant to support the evaluation of interventions or solutions designed to improve human performance. Their use increases the chances that evaluation is based on valid information that is useful to decision-makers. Rules are prescribed guides for what to do, when, and why. The rules begin with how to get agreement on what measures and metrics to use as the basis of the evaluation. They conclude with how to present findings to clients to facilitate understanding and decisions. Tools are instruments used in the execution of a task. They are a means to an end. Techniques are suggestions about how to carry out a task or make better use of a tool usually with the intent of saving time or reducing error. Tips are bits of expert advice intended to make the application of a rule or the use of a tool easier. Tools, techniques, and tips are meaningless without rules; likewise, rules without tools, techniques, and tips are difficult to apply.

THE RULES

The rules for evaluating needs and solutions based on facts or evidence are

1. Get sufficient clarity—Have clients explain what they perceive as a need or goal in detail. The factors and observations they are using as a basis for determining there is a problem are the same factors they will use to judge improvement or success. Clarity about the details facilitates gaining consensus about the need and the evidence.

2. Set a baseline—Set a baseline or describe the current state of affairs sufficiently so that improvement can be measured. Clients cannot determine whether circumstances have changed unless they have something against which to compare the new situation.

3. Leverage data already being collected—Leverage data the client already has to measure whether change is happening and the desired level of improvement occurred. This saves time, reduces the cost of evaluating, and increases the likelihood the evidence will be accepted.

4. Track leading indicators—Leading indicators are the presence of interim behaviors or results that predict results if they continue. When clients track leading indicators, they are in a better position to take corrective action in time to make a difference.

5. Analyze the data—Examine the data for patterns, frequency, and significance so they guide future decisions. The analysis should lead to insights and better understanding of the current situation and how much change has occurred.

6. Tell the story—Communicate the logic behind the decision and the evidence used to measure the effectiveness of the solution. This will facilitate commitment to the solution and meaningful dialogue about the need for any next steps to further support improvement.

 

The rules are somewhat linear or similar to a procedure; however, it helps to have a deeper understanding of some of the more common performance improvement measures and metrics to use them efficiently.

MEASURES, METRICS, AND EVIDENCE

In the world of learning and performance, evaluation is the act of passing judgment on the value of a problem and its proposed solutions. Measurement is the act of gathering data and then using what is found out as a basis for decisions as to the worth of a problem and the value of a solution. Measures are the attributes that the people doing the evaluation pay attention to when making a judgment, such as customer service, timeliness, security, return on investment, and so on. Metrics are units of measurement such as how frequently a behavior occurs, how long before a behavior appears in seconds or hours, how many checks or levels of approval there are, and how much money is gained in hundreds or thousands of dollars. For example, if a client wants to measure customer service, the metric might be how frequently people exhibit the previously determined desired behaviors. If the measure is time, the metric may be years, days, or milliseconds, depending on the circumstances. Taken together measures and metrics are what people accept as evidence that there is a problem and that circumstances improved after a solution was imposed.

1. Get Sufficient Clarity

The first rule is to get sufficient clarity as to what stakeholders are using as evidence that a need exists and what information they will accept as proof that performance improved. A desired by-product of getting clarity is consensus among stakeholders as to the importance of the need and what they will accept as evidence of improvement. Clients typically dictate solutions, such as training, coaching, new software, or a change in personnel to improve performance. They may assume the basis for the request is obvious and accepted by others. However, until the information on which they are making the request is explicit, it is difficult to determine whether there is agreement or whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant action. The best time to help clients articulate the basis for their request is at the time of the request. There are tools, techniques, and tips to help clients better articulate or express what they are using as evidence a need exists or what they will take as evidence that the situation improved as a result of some intervention.

Tool 1a: Getting Clarity. A simple, but effective tool is shown in  Table 11.1 , Getting Clarity. It can be a spreadsheet or table that lists the problem and the evidence in different columns. Clients use it to capture what is known and what is suspected. The Issue column is where clients list the problem they are concerned about. The Evidence column is where clients note what information they are using as a basis for their conclusion that there is a problem and how pervasive it is. It helps clients connect the problem with the evidence. For example, the issue might be customer complaints, turnover of key personnel, or cost overruns. The questions then are about how clients know these are the issues. Tool 1a. Getting Clarity, as shown in  Table 11.1 , has examples in it. However, when using the tool put only that information in each column that is relevant to the situation.

There are at least two ways to use Tool 1a: (1) ask questions and fill it out based on what is learned or (2) prepare it ahead of time using one’s best guess or past experience.

 

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