Performance Assessment & Analysis
Benefits for applying the PAAx methodology and approach
Assessments are often done on a piece of a whole: a department within an organization, a cross-functional process, an organization within a government, a set of organizations within a sector. An assessment is done with a view to changing the object—the parameters—of the assessment. The change may be the introduction of a new technology, a discovery to find out why the outputs are not meeting standards or solving the problems of users, or a shift in the context requiring the organization to shift as well. In order to properly understand—and interpret—the current state, it is essential that we first define the required or desired situation. It is this perspective that provides us with clear parameters for selecting the most appropriate solutions and actions.
Therein lies the crux of assessment: the difference between the value you attribute to what you are producing (services or products) and what the person who uses that output can actually do with it. It does not matter what the internal capacity, processes, or policies are if the recipient of those outputs obtains no value from them. Here, the central question is what results are you really targeting, and how do they compare to what intended users really require? The focus of this type of assessment is first and foremost on the external requirements and value added. Traditional assessments often focus internally, without the strategic linkage to external value added. Without anchoring the assessment on external value added, we might be misled to uselessly spend resources on rearranging policies, processes, and even furniture, with little value to target beneficiaries.
This is where most assessments fall flat. The point is missed. Complying with a checklist of ‘best practices’ or an inventory of plans, guides, and systems, is not important if the results required are not achieved. Assembling a roundtable to discuss what is wrong with the organization—what do you need?—is probably more destructive in organizing action steps than no assessment at all.
In some cases, senior officers rely on intuition to define the problem and prescribe the solution, and only want allocate resources to implement their “solution”. The dynamics of organizations are far too complex to rely solely on intuition. The collective experience of the authors, and the research underlying their work, suggest this approach will result in overwhelming failure. Solutions and programs based on unsupported intuition and assumptions are a dangerous approach because they are filled with blind spots.
A common approach to program design is based on the belief that, ‘If we just add-in this list of best practices, then the organization will go through the stages of development toward a mature and effective organization’. Regrettably, in most maturity models applied to organizational effectiveness in development, the stages of decline and death are deleted. Based on a cursory look of the Fortune 500 companies over the past 75 years, it is clear that the rise and fall of even the “too big to fail” companies suffer from decline. More applicable is that constant changes in every dynamic of organizational functioning (from staffing to suppliers, from project scope to funding, from governance to competitors) affects much shorter “rises and falls” in productivity and efficiency.
There is no simple road to success. Continual improvement is required because the typical decision-making and work within organizations is accompanied by unintended consequences. Every time, every project. These become embedded and clog up the ability to produce the outputs required by the clients (users). Constant improvement is required to mitigate the negative effects while maintaining the benefits.
Those people who are designing and implementing a program or project intended to improve the quality, value, and worthwhileness of the outputs of the organization may benefit from understanding our proposed approach to assessment. There has been clear admission of the diminishing returns of so many capacity building programs and organizational strengthening programs. Our offices overflow with critical evaluations. When the funding is over, the changes dissolve.
It is increasingly evident that the performance improvement sciences and methodologies are a successful approach and underlying strategy for development. Funding and programming organizations are studying these theories and practices, and applying them piecemeal at best. This handbook is based on decades of research and practice in organizational dynamics and performance.
If you are interested in improving results, then this assessment approach may be for you.
More information at: https://knoworldwide.com/certifications/paax-certification/
Extract from Performance Assessment and Analysis. Murray & McCarthy Publishing. January 1, 2018. Amazon.com
Kelly, S. J., Novak, M. M., Guerra-Lopez, I. (2019) Performance Assessment & Analysis. Being Better Matters 21 February. Available at https://www.beingbettermatters.net/performance-assessment-and-analysis/ (accessed: date of your access)
Steven is a senior partner with KNO Worldwide, and has worked in performance improvement since the late 1970s. His early years were spent in organization development, assessment and training delivery. During the last three and a half decades, since his re-location to Central Europe in 1991, he has expanded his efforts to include institutional and capacity building, management of large-scale organizational change efforts, performance assessments, and evaluation of project success or ROI.
M. Mari Novak
Mari Novak has worked in the area of improving organizational and individual results for over 35 years. She has worked in the corporate, development, and governmental arenas. Over the past 24 years, she has focused her work geographically on the transitioning social, economic, and business challenges in Central Europe, Asia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. Mari has successfully applied "systems thinking" and structured performance analytical to all aspects of the development cycle.