|Once upon a time there was a project manager who was faced with a problem. The head of her department informed her that there were two new projects being planned as part of a national effort to reduce nighttime collisions. Two county supervisors each had their own favorite solution. However, the funding source informed the department that the money they were providing could only go toward one new initiative. The department head refused to choose one project over another without empirical proof to justify her decision. So, the responsibility of pilot testing each approach and recommending one project over another was placed on the shoulders of the beleaguered manager. What a dilemma!
Remembering her training in evaluation management, the manager decided to approach this problem with an evaluation mentality. She was determined to save herself as much wasted time and effort as possible, so she decided to build evaluation procedures into each of the projects right from the start. With the assistance of a carefully selected professional evaluator, she asked five essential questions to put herself in the right mind-frame: “What do I know about the safety problems involved in night driving? What is the objective of each of these projects? How would I measure results? How can I collect the data I need? What are my criteria for success?”
Feeling like they had a firm grasp on each project, the manager and evaluator settled on reasonable objectives for each pilot test according to the SMART guidelines and created a plan for measuring results. They hired assistants to collect appropriate baseline data according to each project’s focus. Next, the pilot programs were implemented according to the carefully outlined schedule. In the following weeks, the collected data was analyzed and the report was carefully drawn up. “Hey,” the manager said to the evaluator, “with your help, this wasn’t as hard as I thought.”
The big day arrived. In the conference room gathered the department head, the two supervisors, and the funding representative, all anxious to hear the results. Calmly and confidently, the manager presented her findings. While one approach indicated modest success, she explained, the other program clearly surpassed it, raising safe night driving behaviors by 50%. Impressed by the convincing results, the funding representative heartily agreed to fund the successful project for three years. The department head recommended the manager for a long-overdue promotion. The victorious supervisor patted himself on the back for having though of such a brilliant idea. And even the not-so-triumphant supervisor took the news well, reassured that the outcomes had resulted from an impartial and professional study. Breathing a sigh of relief, the manager thanked her lucky stars that she had used her evaluation training.
And they all lived happily ever after…