This article was based on episode 35 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get the mini-guide here or the full guide at Patreon.
When it comes to evaluating the success of your team’s work, there are four distinct approaches that each elucidate different insights. You may already be using these various approaches implicitly, but when you understand each of them and how to use them alone and in combination, it opens a whole new way of measuring the success of your work.
In general, evaluating your team’s work is critical to building trust, streamlining your processes, improving impact and allocating resources. By evaluating your team’s work across all four dimensions, you will be able to accurately determine if the work was successful, how to improve it, and whether to do it again.
ONE OBJECTIVE, MANY NAMES
Evaluation meetings go by many names: retrospectives, after action reviews, post-mortums, plus/deltas—these meetings most often happen when a project or process is complete and it's time for evaluation. But, in my experience, these meetings don’t happen frequently or regularly enough.
When we don’t pause to reflect on the success of our work, we miss out on opportunities to improve our processes, tactics, and strategies. In some cases, we continue down a path much too long simply because we never stopped to ask if our initial choices are still the right ones.
FOUR APPROACHES TO EVALUATING YOUR WORK
There are four ways to evaluate the work. Each asks different questions and surfaces different insights.
Measure accountability - Did we do what we said we’d do?
Measure impact - Did we move the needle? Did the result of our work make a difference?
Measure learning - What did we learn by doing this?
Measure cost-benefit - Was the investment we made worth the return?
This is the generally the simplest to evaluate because it’s straight forward. Did the team do what it is you set out to do? In order to measure accountability, you must have some form of written goal statement or project plan to compare with. Assuming you’ve got that, some of the questions to are:
Did we execute the project activities on time? If not, why?
Did we stay on the budget? If not, why?
Did we accomplish the full scope of work? If not, why?
Did we uphold our internal processes and norms?
This first accountability phase is the time to recap what actually happened in the context of what you wanted to happen or agreed to do. And, if things didn’t go as planned, you may ask yourself and the team: Was it an intentional choice or did you hit an unexpected roadblock? Was there a breakdown in your internal process or something else? This will give everyone a shared understanding what actually happened and enable you to identify opportunities for learning and improvement.
This is your chance to measure the ‘so what’ of the work that was done. Did all the resources put into the work result in moving the needle, in some relevant outcome? You may have identified a specific outcome ahead of time, but sometimes we overlook that step and focus too much on the tactical goals.
For example, with a social media initiative, the goal may be to launch 2 new campaigns to support a new product launch. But the result or impact we’re looking for is bigger than that: Are we intending to increase our followers? Drive potential customers to the sales page? Convert new customers via social?
Questions to measure sound something like:
What is the result of the work we accomplished?
What impact did the work achieve - on the business, on us, on our customers?
Did we achieve the outcome we expected? Did we achieve any other outcomes?
Sometimes, you can’t measure outcomes right away or they are hard to capture numerically. You may need to survey people or gather anecdotal evidence through follow up conversations. On occasion, a proxy measure is useful. For example, you may measure the number of tweets with your conference # as a proxy for brand awareness post-conference.
What knowledge, insights, skills or experience did you gain by doing the work? When evaluating for learnings, ideally you’ll measure at the strategic, tactical, process, and resource levels. So the questions you ask might be:
Given what we know now, what do we wish knew before we started?
What surprised you - either in a good or disappointing way?
What worked really well? Why?
What didn’t work so well? Why?
What did we learn about our customers? Ourselves?
Learning about what doesn’t work or what not to do is just as valuable as learning about what worked and what to do.
Was everything you did–what you accomplished, the impact of that work, and what you learned–worth the investment in dollars, energy, and opportunity cost?
Reflecting on the cost-benefit of the work helps us figure out whether we should do the same or similar work going forward. Just because something was successful in that it made an impact, doesn’t necessarily mean we should do it again.
To measure cost-benefit, ask questions like:
What was the full total of resources invested in or deployed for this work? (people, time, energy, finances, social or relational capital, physical resources)
What other ways might we accomplish the same impact?
What didn’t we do because of the resources spent on this work?
We all have limited resources. How you chose to spend them as a team is critically important.
As you evaluate, take into account what you won't or can't do if you go that route. Even with all the changes based on learnings, it still may not be the best or only way to get you to the outcome you desire.
EVALUATE AND IMPLEMENT
Don’t let all your learnings go to waste. After you’ve evaluated your work, capture the key insights and takeaways to improve your future work. Then, apply those learnings to existing projects, initiatives and work-streams. Share the learnings with other teams and colleagues so they can benefit as well.
This article was based on episode 35 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.