How to put evaluation results into action: Plan and communicate for maximum impact
Grosvenor has published this series of three articles for program evaluation professionals and program managers faced with the challenge of putting evaluation results into action. This is the second article in the three part series. Missed part one? Read it now.
Improvement opportunities are only useful if you know what to do with them – both evaluators and program managers must:
- have clarity around how each recommendation and improvement can, or should, be implemented
- seek input from key stakeholders to ensure they are appropriate and a good fit for the organisation
- clearly communicate what the improvement opportunity is in a way that resonates and ensures a consistent understanding beyond the evaluation period.
Tip 4 – Plan the required actions, resources, timeframes and ownership of the improvements.
Evaluators often can’t set firm actions , but they can make recommendations. By working together, evaluators can provide an additional layer of information to give program managers a head start on planning their next steps.
Whether you’re an evaluator or program manager, it’s important to consider:
|What action will be required to implement the improvement? Are there any constraints or risks?
|Resources / skills
|What resources and/or skills will be required to deliver the improvement? Can this be managed internally, or will you need to outsource?
|What is a realistic timeframe for the commencement and completion of each task?
|Who should be responsible for the implementation of each activity? What level of authority is required to have action?
Information and suggestions on next steps can be presented as a draft implementation plan or embedded as ‘considerations for implementation’ with notes against the recommendation.
Tip 5 – Understand and engage with your audience and decision makers
Evaluation is ultimately about people – who needs this information and how will it be used? The way decision makers are engaged and involved is critical to ensuring evaluation impact and action.
Communication between the program manager and evaluator throughout the evaluation period (where appropriate) ensures recommendations and improvements are shaped in a practical way that makes sense, supporting impact.
It’s important to note that this should never replace the independence of an evaluator. At times, program managers and owners may disagree with a finding or recommendation – that’s ok! But it’s still important to have the complete picture of what was identified.
To help shape improvements you should:
- Understand how the evaluation findings are going to be used and what the priorities are. This will help you to focus on the things that are most likely to have impact
- Discuss findings before spending too much time developing and refining recommendations. This will help the evaluator understand what is going in greater detail and how important different issues are to the organisation
- Engage as the recommendations are developed. Early visibility of the recommendations will help to shape what is practical, possible and even desired in the organisation.
- Thinks about next steps, including how to implement improvements and monitor what has occurred.
As a guide these are the sorts of questions you should be asking:
- How important is this issue to you, your decision maker and your program participants?
- What resources do you have available?
- What is practical for you?
- Who is the decision maker? What do they care about?
- What are your next steps? What information do you need to present?
- What champions can advocate for change in your organisation?
Tip 6 – Tailor reporting to the audience – there isn’t a one size fits all approach
Be flexible about how you communicate. Don’t assume there’s only one audience and they all want to see the same thing.
To have impact it’s critical that improvement opportunities are communicated in a way which is easily understood and resonates with your audience. Even the best recommendations can’t be followed if program managers and decision makers aren’t clear on what is required after the evaluation.
When presenting improvement opportunities and recommendations it is important that:
- Reports are structured in a way that is accessible to decision makers and key influencers. Consider whether multiple reports are required (for example, the full report and a condensed ‘executive’ version) to best meet the needs of multiple stakeholder groups
- Reports are concise and accessible. Nobody wants to read 100 pages of text. Use plain English to convey your recommendations in a concise way.
- Visual communication tools are leveraged to maximise impact – Dashboards, tables and diagrams are powerful communication tool that can often resonate more with stakeholders than a wall of text
- Presentations and discussions are used to stimulate discussion and ensure decision makers understand what you mean
Want to know more?
This is the second article in a series of three blogs focusing on how to put evaluation results into action. Read the next article about:
- action beyond the evaluation – encouraging the use of findings beyond the final report
- prioritise for maximum impact
At Grosvenor, we believe that evaluation needs to be collaborative, accessible and support decisions and change that provide the best outcomes for our clients and their program stakeholders. No matter whether you are commissioning or delivering evaluations, get in touch with one of our consultants today to understand more about how you can maximise the impact and use of your evaluation findings.