Steps to Improvement: Evaluate
Norman picked up the greasy rag and rubbed the excess oil off his hands. His blue boiler suit bore the oily scars of this engine extraction. He stared down at the parts laid out in front of him on the workbench. Crankshaft, pistons, engine head; all lined up like battle-weary soldiers reporting for duty. He scratched his head and then lifted each part for closer examination, looking for tell-tale signs as he began to evaluate who was fit for duty and who had potential to let the side down. Norman, an engineer, began what he knew was crucial to get the 1968 Sunbeam Rapier back on the road again. Evaluating, assessing what was working and what needed to be replaced to make the engine run smoothly.
Every craftsman who repairs things, be them an engineer, a carpenter, a mechanic or a washing machine repair person, knows evaluating the situation correctly ensures you focus on the right things to get everything working. Rush the evaluation and you end up missing something important that can (and probably will!) bite you later on. The same applies to us as leaders. When we are looking for improvement, we need to evaluate correctly. It is the third of four key steps:
So, how do you effectively evaluate what needs to change and what could solve it? I think it comes down to the 4Ps of Evaluation:
Before you evaluate what’s working, what isn’t and what could be done to improve it, we need to be clear on our reason for doing things in the first place. It becomes the crucial yardstick against which we evaluate what is going on. Ask yourself questions such as:
· What is our overall purpose?
· What are we doing this particular activity for?
· How is it helping meet that need? How is it helping meet our overall purpose?
In our last blog, we looked at ‘Review’. This step of the improvement process is about reviewing what is happening to gather the information so we can evaluate. A key part of the review process is to ‘Say what you see’, as follows.
1. Say what you see – what do you see is happening?
2. What might be causing it?
3. What can you change?
Steps 2 and 3 are all about possibilities. What possible things might be causing the issue? What possible things might solve it. The tendency sometimes is to jump to the obvious conclusion in both what might cause and what might solve it. The best way, though, is to list all the possibilities of cause. Then evaluate which is more likely given what you can see. When evaluating what could be solutions, again think wide. You can ask yourself,
· What have I used in the past that might help?
· What have others tried that might help?
· What things in different contexts help?
The more ideas you can come up with, the more creativity can grow for you to explore different ways of doing things. Make a big, long list, however tempting it is to rush straight on in with the first idea that came into your head. Don’t dismiss any of them yet either. Just list them.
So, now you have a long list it is time to evaluate these possibilities. Time to work out the pros and cons with each one. You will have a bias, but try where you can to objectively weigh them up. If you would like help with this, there is a great resource on our ‘Book Resources’ page that can help you work through something that needs to improve. The book has further key questions that can help you list and evaluate ideas.
Lastly, the final part of evaluation is working out which idea will be paramount, which one will be best to meet the purpose. Take it back again to the core purpose of what you do. Does the solution fit that? Take it back to the reason why you are doing an activity – will it help bring that purpose to fruition?
Sometimes, it is hard to find a solution that will fit everything. In that case, it is time to view the solution like the space saver wheel on a car. Will this solution take us forward to a point when we can get a more long-term solution? Can it serve as a step forward?
It is important to stress here that, in any evaluation, you can only make decisions based on what you know at the time. The overactive worrier in us can question ourselves excessively and worry that it still might not be the best way or might not work. All you can do in these moments is make the best decision at the time, with all the facts that you have. The next stage is to then see this as an adventure, to be curious and see how this goes. If it doesn’t work, evaluate it afresh with new data and experiences and explore another way forward. Remember, improvement is a journey and not just a destination.
Can we help you?
Improvement can be hard. Sometimes, the evaluation is hard to break free from our bias and see a way forward. If you would like help reviewing and evaluating how you can improve something, coaching could help you. If you need someone from outside of the team to support you, Everyday Leader’s team of coaches can help you effectively work out what needs to be taken responsibility for, review and evaluate what needs to improve, and to plan the improvement. Give us a call if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you and your team.
Everyday Leader is here to empower, inspire and equip you to do that. If we can help you find a way forward, through coaching, training or consultancy, do let us know if we can be of help to you. Contact us now: firstname.lastname@example.org