To become better we need to evaluate. Everything we do can be improved through taking the time to reflect and evaluate when completed. An effective way to guide post-event evaluation it to use established systems and processes, whether these are adapted from other leaders or organizations, or created internally.
Recently I was reading Leading in a Culture of Change. Michael Fullan, in talking about evaluation, refers to Army After Action Reviews. These AARs have three key questions: What was supposed to happen? What happened? And what accounts for the difference?
I like that. While many evaluation systems include many questions about every aspect of the event, they really all come back to these three questions. All the questions on a long evaluation form probably come down to these three questions.
What was supposed to happen?
This question is effective because it assumes there was a clear plan from the beginning. Every person involved in making it happen knew what was expected. They likely talked through each aspect ahead of time, and maybe even rehearsed parts of it. Your evaluation needs to begin with a reminder of what you hoped to accomplish. In this way, everyone is reminded of what their goals were.
This is where you work through the event in hindsight and remind yourself what actually happened. Did those leading know what they were doing? Did the people involved enjoy the experience? Did it end up being close to the original goal and plan? Were you able to work the vision well, meaning did your effort move everyone toward the envisioned goal? This is the opportunity to consider each aspect and identify what went well and what did not.
What accounts for the difference?
Once you’ve identified the expectations and actual outcomes, it is time to look at how closely your event matched what you had dreamed and planned for. Focus in on what happened differently than expected. Point out any surprises or missteps, and then try to figure out why things did not go as planned. What are some reasons for what went wrong? And just as important: what are some reasons for what went right or better than you had planned?
With this in mind, brainstorm what needs to change to be better next time. There might be all kinds of actions to take to improve:
- Better training
- Clearer directions
- More rehearsing
- Better equipment
- And on and on
An After Action Review (AAR) may take a few minutes or may last an hour. It depends on how complicated the event was or how many items were identified when answering the third question. I like these three questions because they really focus in on CANEI. You can zero in on what needs to improve for next time.
Evaluation always needs to lead to action. Everything that needs improvement must be worked on until a satisfactory change has been defined and developed.
Incorporate regular evaluation into your routines. Ask God to help you see where you may have fallen short of His hopes for the event, and the Holy Spirit to make it clear on how to continue to improve. As a follower of Jesus Christ, do your best for the Kingdom of God, no matter what you are doing.
Keep looking up,