Posts Tagged ‘Evaluation’

When watching the opening ceremony for the London Olympics Friday night, I could not help but compare them to the opening ceremony from the 2008 Beijing games.  In my opinion, the London ceremony fell far short of Beijing’s.  I still remember watching in amazement as the Chinese put on a show with a huge “wow factor.”  While there were some clever moments Friday night, it all seemed a little too cerebral and boring for an opening ceremony for me.

Since the 2008 ceremony made such an impression on me, it is the standard by which I measure Olympic opening ceremonies unless and until it is surpassed by something else.  I don’t know how many others share that opinion, but it’s my standard regardless of how many others share it.

When it comes to so many things in life and work, it is vital that we know what the standard is by which we measure.  Great managers I have had in the past become the standard by which I measure the performance of current and future managers.  Great teachers, preachers, and public leaders become standards.  Places we visit and at which we have memorable experiences become standards for future travel destinations.  Previous relationships become standards (for good or bad) that impact how we relate to others down the road.

Obviously, we don’t all have the same standards because we don’t share the same backgrounds, experiences, education, beliefs, goals, etc.  But, hopefully, we at least have standards that make sense to us, that drive us to some level of performance and quality of life, inwardly and outwardly.  To have no such standards means that we aimlessly drift along wherever the wind blows.  I can’t imagine a more meaningless and frustrating journey.  It may sound exotic to be freely carried along by the wind, but in doing so you wind up at a destination determined by someone or something else.

I can’t do much about Olympic opening ceremonies, but I can at least know those people, processes, qualities, beliefs and practices that form the standards by which I live and evaluate life.  I hope you know such standards as well.

Leap year lesson #208 is Know the standards by which you measure.

I regularly take part in conference calls involving online community managers from around the country and overseas.  We discuss our experiences, challenges and practices in leading social media efforts for our respective organizations.

The topic for today’s call was companies’ marketing efforts via social media.  Most seemed to assume that marketing is a vital reason for companies to be involved in social media.  The perennial issue of how to measure ROI came up as did the problem of having too few people to do everything the company expects.  Comparisons and contrasts were made between the experiences of the more seasoned participants versus those whose companies and personnel were fairly new to such efforts.

Throughout the call, I kept thinking that an element of the discussion was missing, so near the end of the call I brought it up.  Whether we are speaking of our online communities we lead or other business efforts, the only way we have a chance to accurately measure how successful we are at something is if we know from the beginning what the purpose is – what our goals are.  Why are we doing this?  Is it so that the company can push its products on the public via one more channel?  Is it because we have some expertise in a subject area and want to help educate others?  Are we opening up a channel for customer service?

Measuring success depends on knowing what the goals are ahead of time.  Only then can you benchmark where you were before your efforts and use that baseline to compare with the results.  My sense, however, is that too few companies and individuals have real, meaningful goals, strategies, and a means for measuring success.  That too easily results in haphazard activity that may look like things are being done, but that probably fails to meet business or personal objectives if put to the test.

That isn’t good enough to be a next practice.  We need clarity about what is important, what goals we set, how we will accomplish them and how we will measure that success.  Without those, presumed successes may be no more than dumb luck.

Leap year lesson #135 is Success doesn’t happen without goals.

I had an annual check-up today with my dermatologist. It’s a ritual following an episode with skin cancer several years ago. Even though there has been no recurrence, it’s important to have that time of checking in with a professional to make sure all is well.

There are so many areas of life where we need to stop and evaluate where we are, and usually we are helped by the wisdom and insights of others. It doesn’t always need to be a professional. Many times a trusted friend is all we need to talk things through – someone who will be honest with us, tell us like it is, ask us questions and let us come to our own conclusions.

Where do you need a check-up?

  • in your relationship with that special someone?
  • in your career path?
  • in some physical concern?
  • in your spiritual life?
  • in dealing with issues that have haunted you for too long?
  • some other area?

So many people suffer unnecessarily by waiting too long to go for a check-up. Some even avoid doing so precisely because they know something is wrong and they just don’t want to hear the news. But the smart thing to do for yourself and those you love is to do it now. You’ll either leave with the peace that comes from confirmation that all is well or with a knowledge of what is wrong and a beginning point for taking corrective action.

Leap year lesson #81 is We need occasional check-ups.

Starting LineI read an excellent article today by Paul Kearns called “All you need to know about training evaluation in about 700 words.” I’ll respond with about 800 words. The article resonated with me because I have spent most of my adult life in some role related to training or education. I’ve been in a million conversations about evaluating training and have been subjected – as learner and trainer – to various and sundry attempts to evaluate training.

Kearns’ point in the article is that the Kirkpatrick levels of evaluation that learning organizations have discussed for decades have always been and will always be inadequate, even if you try to amend them by throwing in the more recently added fifth level for ROI. (Just in case you’re not familiar with Kirkpatrick’s levels, Kearns summarizes the original four levels as 1) reaction to training, 2) testing learning, 3) applying learning in the workplace and 4) business impact.)

Why the inadequacy of Kirkpatrick? Because the point of any training in the workplace is to improve business performance in some way, and unless you have first adequately measured and recorded a baseline of that performance before training, then you have no basis for rightly evaluating the effectiveness of the training afterward. I would also add that you must be able to separate the impact of, for example, learning that happens as a result of attending a class or completing an online module or asking colleagues via a social network or reading on one’s own from learning that occurs in other contexts, or else your quantitative calculations will be tainted with unverifiable assumptions that your training is the reason for the difference.