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Tag Archive for: organization development

September 22, 2020
22 Sep 2020

Thinking Together – What is a ‘Thought Partner’?

A “thought partner” is someone other than one’s typical work colleagues who helps organizational leaders to consider an organization’s strategic issues. Thought partners typically add value to conversations about strategy by bringing to bear an experience-based perspective, a genuine curiosity about key issues, and a range of listening and question-asking skills that assist organizational leaders to formulate innovative plans for an organization’s future direction. Thought partners ask good questions, are sensitive to the values and ultimate purposes of the organization, and although they challenge ‘business-as-usual’ assumptions, are non-judgmental about other’s ideas and viewpoints. Thought partners challenge organizational leaders to think innovatively and to assume a creative perspective in order to solve what are often seemingly intractable problems.

One of the key aspects of an effective thought partner is an objectivity that comes from the thought partner’s externality to the organization. (See “4 Advantages of an External Consultant”) Thought partners must be empathic, intellectually flexible, and inventive. Because thought partners are not enmeshed in the daily politics and interpersonal competition of the organization, they are able to offer an impartial view of the issues and challenges that leaders must work with.

Brad Rose Consulting has 25 years of experience not only conducting evaluations and conducting organizational development initiatives, but as serving as a thought partner to our clients. Our experience provides us with a source of broad-based knowledge about the issues that non-profit and educational leaders face. We are experienced at asking good questions, listening to clients’ perspectives, helping organizations to envision future directions, and helping clients to take immediate steps to strengthen their organizations’ effectiveness.

Resources:

May 29, 2019
29 May 2019

Being Smart About What You Feel

Emotional Intelligence

In a previous blogpost, “Interpersonal Skills Enhance Program Evaluation,” we discussed the importance of interpersonal and relational skills for program evaluators. These skills make effective and responsive interpersonal interaction possible. “Emotional Intelligence” underlies many of these skills. Emotional Intelligence, first explored by Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence, Why It Matters More Than IQ, Bantam Books, 1995 is the ability to recognize, manage, and utilize both one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. Emotional Intelligence, as summarized by Eric Ravenscraft in his recent article “Emotional Intelligence: The Social Skills You Weren’t Taught in School,” Lifehacker, February 20, 2019, includes the following elements:

  • Self-awareness: Self-awareness involves knowing your own feelings. This includes having an accurate assessment of what you’re capable of, when you need help, and what your emotional triggers are.
  • Self-management: This involves being able to keep your emotions in check when they become disruptive. Self-management involves being able to control outbursts, calmly discussing disagreements, and avoiding activities that undermine you like extended self-pity or panic.
  • Motivation: Everyone is motivated to action by rewards like money or status. Goleman’s model, however, refers to motivation for the sake of personal joy, curiosity, or the satisfaction of being productive.
  • Empathy: While the three previous categories refer to a person’s internal emotions, this one deals with the emotions of others. Empathy is the skill and practice of reading the emotions of others and responding appropriately.
  • Social skills: This category involves the application of empathy as well as negotiating the needs of others with your own. This can include finding common ground with others, managing others in a work environment, and being persuasive.

 

Critiques of Emotional Intelligence

Although Emotional Intelligence (EI) has become an increasingly accepted concept, there are some who question its distinctiveness and validity. Some say that it is difficult to distinguish from regular IQ, that is not really a kind of intelligence but a set of behaviors, and that it is nearly impossible to objectively measure.

A recent article argues that the idea of “reading” the emotions of oneself and of others is itself a problematic conception. In “Emotional Intelligence Needs a Rewrite”, Lisa Feldman Barrett, Nautilus, August 3, 2017, writes that “The traditional foundation of Emotional Intelligence rests on two common-sense assumptions. The first is that it’s possible to detect the emotions of other people accurately. That is, the human face and body are said to broadcast happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and other emotions, and if you observe closely enough, you can read these emotions like words on a page. The second assumption is that emotions are automatically triggered by events in the world, and you can learn to control them through rationality.”

Feldman Barrett argues that neither of these assumptions stands up to scientific investigation. Research shows that faces and bodies alone do not communicate any specific emotion, in any consistent manner, and that since the brain doesn’t have separate regions—one for emotion, and one for cognition—the belief that we can control or manage emotions using our rational brains is fallacious. She argues that although it may sound appealing and reasonable that we can detect emotions in others by observing their faces and bodies, expressions are neither universal nor mono-emotional. “When it comes to detecting emotion in other people, the face and body do not speak for themselves.”  She says that, “Your brain may automatically make sense of someone’s movements in context, allowing you to guess what a person is feeling, but you are always guessing, never detecting.”

The author offers an alternative, neuroscientific view of how the brain works. She says that our brains “create all thoughts, emotions, and perceptions, automatically and on the fly, as needed. This process is completely unconscious. It may seem like you have reflex-like emotional reactions and effortlessly detect emotions in other people, but under the hood, your brain is doing something else entirely.”  Essentially our brains are survival-oriented prediction engines, that produce responses to internal and external stimuli that “become the emotions we experience and the expressions we perceive in other people.” Therefore “Emotional Intelligence requires a brain that can use prediction to manufacture a large, flexible array of different emotions. If you’re in a tricky situation that has called for emotion in the past, your brain will oblige by constructing the emotion that works best.”

Feldman Barrett argues that we don’t so much observe emotions in ourselves and others, as we construct them and predict them.  She further argues that we can give our “constructivist” brains (and their concomitant emotions) a boost by enhancing the granularity of our sensitivity to our feelings and emotional states. One way we can do this is by learning greater vocabularies to describe our own and other’s feeling states, and thereby priming our prediction engines to “guess” what others are feeling, with even more specificity.

Whether our brains construct emotions and predict the emotions of others seems largely irrelevant to the issue of the importance of understanding emotions in ways that help us relate to, and interact with, others.  In the final analysis, the human social world is composed by thinking and feeling beings, and those who can understand (“predict” in Feldman Barrett’s view) and manage emotions will be better prepared to engage in that world.

Resources:

Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, Why It Matters More Than IQ.   Bantam Books, 1995.

Emotional Intelligence: “The Social Skills You Weren’t Taught in School” Eric Ravenscraft.  Lifehacker, February 20, 2019

“Emotional Intelligence Needs a Rewrite”, Lisa Feldman Barrett, Nautilus, August 3, 2017.

“What is Emotional Intelligence” Michael Akers & Grover Porter,  Oct 8, 2018 Psych Central

“The Benefits of Emotional Intelligence,”  Paula Durlofsky, July 8 2018, Psych Central
May 21, 2019
21 May 2019

Lying at Work

It’s sometimes difficult to tell the truth, especially in arenas like the workplace, where inequalities of power and authority make it difficult to “speak truth to power.” In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “4 Ways Lying Becomes the Norm at a Company” (February 15, 2019) Ron Carucci discusses the results of a substantial, 15 year longitudinal study that examined the systemic (vs. personal) incentives for dishonesty. Carucci says there are a range of incentives, or prompts, for employees to be less than honest at work.  Among these:

  • Inconsistency: An inconsistency between an organization’s stated mission, objectives, and values, and the way it is actually experienced by employees and the marketplace. As one interviewee put it, “Our priorities change by the week. Nobody wants to admit we’re in trouble, so we’re grasping at straws. We don’t know who we are anymore, so we’re just making things up.”
  • Unjust accountability systems, especially when an organization’s processes for measuring employee contributions is perceived as unfair or unjust. Research shows that people are nearly 4 times more likely to withhold or distort information when the system is perceived to be unfair or rigged.
  • Poor organizational governance; for example there is no effective process to gather decision makers into honest conversations about tough issues. Truth is forced underground, leaving the organization to rely on rumors and gossip.
  • Inter-group rivalry, conflict, and competition (what Carlucci terms “weak cross-functional collaboration.”) is a predictor of people withholding information or distorting truthful information. Additionally, Carlucci observes that isolation, fragmentation, and departmental/divisional loyalties often result in dishonesty or a damaging lack of candor.

Because these factors are cumulative, an organization afflicted with all four of these factors is 15 times more likely to end up in an “integrity catastrophe” than those who have none of these four integrity/honesty problems. Carlucci argues however, that these organizational problems are alterable and that a culture of honesty can be achieved by companies and organizations that challenge these issues.

Resources:

“4 Ways Lying Becomes the Norm at a Company,” Ron Carucci, Harvard Business ReviewFebruary 15, 2019

February 19, 2019
19 Feb 2019

Power in Organizations

Most of us spend a good portion of our lives in organizations or indirectly relating to organizations (businesses, non-profits, civic and legal organizations, religious organizations, military and criminal justice organizations, etc.). One might say that in the modern world, we “live in” an environment composed largely of organizations. (See our previous blogposts “Organization Development: What Is It & How Can Evaluation Help?”  and “What’s the Difference? 10 Things You Should Know About Organizations vs. Programs”)

Organizations contain, utilize, and deploy various kinds of social power. Such power is the capacity of individuals and groups to affect, control, or influence outcomes (i.e. changes). Power doesn’t exist in isolation, but in relationships to other individuals and/or groups. If we want to accomplish goals at work—whether these goals are about producing widgets, or making the world a better place—we need to draw on and negotiate various kinds of formal and informal power. Sometimes it may be useful to think of various resources as sources of power. Tangible resources include, money, machinery, physical infrastructure, etc. Less tangible, but no less important, resources may include, authority, social status/prestige, social networks, individuals’ intelligence, professional experience, even social attractiveness and charisma. Both tangible and intangible resources are used as sources of power with which organizations achieve objectives and goals.

In her article, “Types of Powers in Organizations,” Diana Dahl summarizes 7 types of power in organizations. These include:

  1. Coercive Power— a person or group is able to punish others for not following orders has coercive power.
  2. Connection Power— connection power is gained by knowing and being listened to by influential people. Increasing connections and mastering political networking lead to a greater potential for connection power.
  3. Reward Power— the ability to give rewards to other employees. Rewards are not always monetary, such as improved work hours and words of praise.
  4. Legitimate Power (also known as legitimate authority)— when employees believe a person can give orders based on his position within the organization, such as when a manager orders staff members to complete a task and they comply because the orders came from their superior.
  5. Referent Power— people who are liked, respected, and are viewed by other employees as worth emulating. Supervisors who lead by example, treat employees with respect, seek their collaboration and gain the trust of their employees possess referent power.
  6. Informational Power— access to valued information. This power can be quickly fleeting because once the needed information is shared, the person’s power is gone.
  7. Expert Power— the greater a person’s knowledge or specialized skill set, the greater her potential for expert power.

People in organizations must get things accomplished. Having a clear idea of what constitutes organizational power and the kinds of resources that need to mobilized to reach goals, may help us to better navigate what are often complicated and contentious organizations.

Resources

Power in Organizations: Structures, Processes and Outcomes, by Richard Hall and Pamela Tolbert Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005, 9th edition

“Types of Powers in Organizations,” by Diana Dahl ; Updated September 26, 2017

Links to and summaries of “Theories of Organizational Power” at bankofinfo.com/theories-of-organizational-power

“Power and Politics in Organizational Life,” Abraham Zaleznik, Harvard Business Review

“Power in Organizations: A Way of Thinking About What You’ve Got, and How to Use It,” Roelf Woldring

Summary of tactics to gain organizational power 

February 5, 2019
05 Feb 2019

Pretending to Love Work

In a previous blog post, “Why You Hate Work” we discussed an article that appeared in the New York Times that investigated the way that the contemporary workplace too often produces a sense of depletion and employee “burnout.” In that article, the authors, Tony Schwartz and Christin Porath, argued that only when companies attempt to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of their employees by creating “truly human-centered organizations,” can these companies create the conditions for more engaged and fulfilled workers, and in so doing, become more productive and profitable organizations.

In that eponymous blogpost, we suggested that employee burnout is not an unknown feature of the non-profit world, and that, while program evaluation cannot itself prevent employee burnout, it can add to non-profit organizations’ capacities to create organizations in which staff and program participants have a greater sense of efficacy and purposefulness. (See also our blogpost “Program Evaluation and Organization Development” )

Of course, the problem of employee burnout and alienation is a perennial one. It occurs in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. In a more recent article, “Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?” New York Times, January 26, 2019, Erin Griffith says that in recent years, there has emerged a “hustle culture,”—especially for millennials. This culture, Griffith argues, “…is obsessed with striving, (is) relentlessly positive, devoid of humor, and — once you notice it — impossible to escape.” She sites the artifacts of such a culture, which include at one WeWork location, in New York, neon signs that exhorts workers to “Hustle harder,” and murals that spread the gospel of T.G.I.M. (Thank God It’s Monday). Somewhat horrified by the Stakhanovite tenor of the WeWork environment, Griffith notes, “Even the cucumbers in WeWork’s water coolers have an agenda. ‘Don’t stop when you’re tired,’… ‘Stop when you are done.’” “In the new work culture,” Griffith observes, “enduring or even merely liking one’s job is not enough. Workers should love what they do, and then promote that love on social media, thus fusing their identities to that of their employers.”

Griffith is not concerned with employee burnout. Instead, she is horrified by the degree to which many younger employees have internalized the obsessively productivist, “workaholic” norms of their employers and, more broadly, of contemporary corporations. These norms include the apotheosis of excessive work hours and the belief that devotion to anything other than work is somehow a shameful betrayal of the work ethic. She quotes the founder of online platform, Basecamp, David Heinemeier Hansson, who observes, “The vast majority of people beating the drums of hustle-mania are not the people doing the actual work. They’re the managers, financiers and owners.”

Griffith writes, “…as tech culture infiltrates every corner of the business world, its hymns to the virtues of relentless work remind me of nothing so much as Soviet-era propaganda, which promoted impossible-seeming feats of worker productivity to motivate the labor force. One obvious difference, of course, is that those Stakhanovite posters had an anti-capitalist bent, criticizing the fat cats profiting from free enterprise. Today’s messages glorify personal profit, even if bosses and investors — not workers — are the ones capturing most of the gains. Wage growth has been essentially stagnant for years.”

Resources:

“Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?” Erin Griffith, New York Times, January 26, 2019

“Why You Hate Work”

“The Fleecing of Millennials” David Leonhardt, New York Times, January 27, 2019

December 4, 2018
04 Dec 2018

Strengthening Program AND Organizational Effectiveness

Program evaluation is seldom simply about making a narrow judgment about the outcomes of a program (i.e., whether the desired changes were, in fact, ultimately produced.) Evaluation is also about helping to provide program implementers and stakeholders with information that will help them strengthen their organization’s efforts, so that desired programmatic goals are more likely to be achieved.

Brad Rose Consulting is strongly committed to translating evaluation data into meaningful and actionable knowledge, so that programs, and the organizations that host programs, can strengthen their efforts and optimize results. Because we are committed not just to measuring program outcomes, but to strengthening the organizations that host and manage programs, we work at the intersection of program evaluation and organization development (OD).

Often challenges facing discrete programs reflect challenges facing the organizations that host programs. (For the difference between “organizations” and “programs” see our previous post “What’s the Difference? 10 Things You Should Know About Organizations vs. Programs,” ) Program evaluations thus present opportunities for host organizations to:
  • engage in the clarification of their goals and purposes
  • enhance understanding of the often implied relationships between a program’s causes and effects
  • articulate for internal stakeholders a collective understanding of the objectives of their programming
  • reflect on alternative concrete strategies to achieve desired outcomes
  • strengthen internal and external communications
  • improve relationships between individuals within in programs and organizations
Although Brad Rose Consulting evaluation projects begin with a focus on discrete programs and initiatives, the answers to the questions that drive our evaluation of programs often provide vital insights into ways to strengthen the effectiveness of the organizations that host, design, and implement those programs. (See “Logic Modeling: Contributing to Strategic Planning” )
Typically, Brad Rose Consulting works with clients to gather data that will help to improve, strengthen, and “nourish” both programs and organizations. For example, our formative evaluations, which are conducted during a project’s implementation, aim to improve a program’s design and performance. (See “Understanding Different Types of Program Evaluation” ) Our evaluation activities provide program managers and implementers with regular, data-based briefings, and with periodic written reports so that programs can make timely adjustments to their operations. Formative feedback, including data-based recommendations for program refinement, can also help to strengthen the broader organization, by identifying opportunities for organizational learning, clarifying the goals of the organization as these are embodied in specific programming, specifying how programs and organizations work to produce results (i.e., articulating cause and effect) and by strengthening systems and processes.

Resources

“What’s the Difference? 10 Things You Should Know About Organizations vs. Programs,”

“Logic Modeling: Contributing to Strategic Planning”

“Understanding Different Types of Program Evaluation”

December 11, 2017
11 Dec 2017

What’s the Difference? 10 Things You Should Know About Organizations vs. Programs

Organizations vs. Programs

Organizations are social collectivities that have: members/employees, norms (rules for, and standards of, behavior), ranks of authority, communications systems, and relatively stable boundaries. Organizations exist to achieve purposes (objectives, goals, and missions) and usually exist in a surrounding environment (often composed of other organizations, individuals, and institutions.) Organizations are often able to achieve larger-scale and more long-lasting effects than individuals are able to achieve.  Organizations can take a variety of forms including corporations, non-profits, philanthropies, and military, religious, and educational organizations.

Programs are discreet, organized activities and actions (or sets of activities and actions) that utilize resources to produce desired, typically targeted, outcomes (i.e., changes and results). Programs typically exist within organizations. (It may be useful to think of programs as nested within one or, in some cases, more than one organization.) In seeking to achieve their goals, organizations often design and implement programs that use resources to achieve specific ends for program participants and recipients. Non-profit organizations, for example, implement programs that mobilize resources in the form of activities, services, and products that are intended to improve the lives of program participants/recipients. In serving program participants, nonprofits strive to effectively and efficiently deploy program resources, including knowledge, activities, services, and materials, to positively affect the lives of those they serve.

What is Program Evaluation?

Program evaluation is an applied research process that examines the effects and effectiveness of programs and initiatives. Michael Quinn Patton notes that “Program evaluation is the systematic collection of information about the activities, characteristics, and outcomes of programs in order to make judgements about the program, to improve program effectiveness, and/or to inform decisions about future programming. Program evaluation can be used to look at:  the process of program implementation, the intended and unintended results produced by programs, and the long-term impacts of interventions. Program evaluation employs a variety of social science methodologies–from large-scale surveys and in-depth individual interviews, to focus groups and review of program records.” Although program evaluation is research-based, unlike purely academic research, it is designed to produce actionable and immediately useful information for program designers, managers, funders, stakeholders, and policymakers.

Organization Development, Strategic Planning, and Program Evaluation

Organization Development is a set of processes and practices designed to enhance the ability of organizations to meet their goals and achieve their overall mission. It entails “…a process of continuous diagnosis, action planning, implementation and evaluation, with the goal of transferring (or generating) knowledge and skills so that organizations can improve their capacity for solving-problems and managing future change.” (See: Organizational Development Theory, below) Organization Development deals with a range of features, including organizational climateorganizational culture (i.e., assumptions, values, norms/expectations, patterns of behavior) and organizational strategy. It seeks to strengthen and enhance the long-term “health” and performance of an organization, often by focusing on aligning organizations with their rapidly changing and complex environments through organizational learning, knowledge management, and the specification of organizational norms and values.

Strategic Planning is a tool that supports organization development. Strategic planning is a systematic process of envisioning a desired future for an entire organization (not just a specific program), and translating this vision into broadly defined set of goals, objectives, and a sequence of action steps to achieve these. Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions about allocating its resources to pursue this strategy.

Strategic plans typically identify where and organization is at and where it wants to be in the future. It includes statements about how to “close the gap,” between its current state and its desired, future state. Additionally, strategic planning requires making decisions about allocating resources to pursue an organizations strategy. Strategic planning generally involves not just setting goals and determining actions to achieve the goals, but also mobilizing resources.

Program evaluation is uniquely able to contribute to organization development–the deliberately planned, organization-wide effort to increase an organization’s effectiveness and/or efficiency. Although evaluations are customarily aimed at gathering and analyzing data about discrete programs, the most useful evaluations collect, synthesize, and report information that can be used to improve the broader operation and health of the organization that hosts the program. Additionally, program evaluation can aid the strategic planning process, by using data about an organization’s programs to indicate whether the organization is successfully realizing its goals and mission through its current programming.

Brad Rose Consulting works at the intersection of evaluation and organization development. While our projects begin with a focus on discrete programs and initiatives, the answers to the questions that drive our evaluation research provide vital insights into the effectiveness of the organizations that host, design, and fund those programs. Findings from our evaluations often have important implications for the development and sustainability of the entire host organization.

Resources:

Organizations: Structures, Processes, and Outcomes, Richard H. Hall and Pamela S Tolbert, Pearson Prentice Hall, 9th edition.

Utilization Focused Evaluation, Michael Quinn Patton, Sage, 3rd edition, 1997

Organization Development: What Is It & How Can Evaluation Help?

Organization Development

Organizational Development Theory

Strategic Planning, Bain and Co. 2017

Strategic Planning

What a Strategic Plan Is and Isn’t
Ten Keys to Successful Strategic Planning for Nonprofit and Foundation Leaders

Elements of a Strategic Plan

Types of Strategic Planning
Understanding Strategic Planning

Five Steps to a Strategic Plan
Five Steps to a Strategic Plan

The Big Lie of Strategic Planning, Roger L. Martin, Harvard Business Review, January-February 2014

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