Building an Evaluation Culture with Top Ten Lists [Guest post by Corey Newhouse]

Hi, I’m Corey Newhouse, the Founder and Principal of Public Profit. We help public service organizations measure and manage what matters. As the leader of an 8-person evaluation firm, I think often about staff training and common organizational practices.

Anyone who has been in the field knows that there are hundreds of tips and tricks that we pick up along the way, ranging from the global (“Don’t falsify your data”) to the very local (“Meg the attendance clerk always has the file you want”).

And, to complex-ify things, one person’s “must-do-every-time-without-fail” tip is another person’s “what-the-heck-are-you-talking-about?” non-tip. So what’s an evaluation team to do?

Our team recently developed a “Top Ten Tips for Evaluation at Public Profit” in order to codify the most important of these practices for our work. To develop the list, each member of the team drafted as many tips as they wanted, and we discussed the tips as a group. We were able to whittle our list down to a set of tips that we agreed were essential to our work.

public_profit

The exercise was hugely helpful for three reasons:

  • We were relieved to find that many of our tips were similar, suggesting that our team was already pretty good at sharing good ideas with one another.
  • The tip nominations process stimulated important conversations about the ways in which we work together, such as whether it was OK to ask for uninterrupted time to complete a task. (And leading to the tip, “Ask for what you need, even if it is time to focus.”)
  • We used our tips list to create a professional development calendar, in which some of the more complex tips were covered in a 30-60 minute training.

Our tips are now part of our data operations manual, and a key part of our staff on-boarding process. We’ll update the list every year or so to make sure that our best thinking is reflected.

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