Planning Essential for Assessment Success

assessPlanning for an assessment will be gated by the scope and context of the initiative and the organisation. Most readiness assessments involve either interviewing or surveying of a cross-functional and/or cross-organisational group of people. One way to envision the survey/interview population is by imagining a diagonal slice of the organisation. Given this view, the company needs to be sure it elicits information from all constituencies in a way that provides a balanced view of what is going on (from strategic/organizational elements to tactical/operational elements).

If an organization is organized by product line, similarly, it needs to acquire equally distributed information across all product lines. Practically speaking this means, everyone from senior executives to process participants must be interviewed. These views will help to characterize and highlight the alignment of the organisations strategies, goals, programs, processes and metrics. This alignment is important to test for, as strong alignment contributes significantly to the strength and longevity of a successful initiative.

Lack of alignment means that communications, priorities and actions will become clouded and subject to drift or ambiguity.

One of the primary inputs to the assessment process is what people in the organisation actually do in the performance of their daily work. Deciding how, how many and who that information is elicited from is a critical decision in the process. When considering the survey or interview populations, several choices should be considered:

  1. Sample size (how many and from where) – determined by the size of the organization and whether or not web-based technology is used.
    • If 500-5,000 associates and utilizing an interview-based model, sample sizes should be 3 to 5 percent of the population
    • When using web-based technology, a sample size of 100 percent is not out of the question. Web-based assessments while missing on actual observation and dialog, add the capability to collect, process and store a large amount of data quickly, which enhances the ability to reuse and drill down in the detailed data.
  2. Demographics (various locations, cultures and or geographies) – locally tuned processes and practices are getting results and thus may be ripe for adoption by the organization at large. Sometimes certain geographies are required to comply with local laws or requirements. A supply chain view also is worth considering. It can be highly desirable to include several customers, clients or even suppliers in the assessment. This is a great way to see how external sources view the strengths and weaknesses of a process.
  3. Availability of information (from other sources including other audits and assessments) – If a recent and rich source of information exists (previous audit or assessment) it only stands to reason that this information is useful. Even if it appears to be in conflict with other things discovered. This often happens when things are being done in a vacuum or pocket of excellence. All are useful things to learn.
  4. Use of technology (specifically, web-based survey and assessment tools) – differentiate between “survey only” and assessment tools. Assessment tools usually have some type of intelligence built in to generate comparative and gap analysis automatically. They typically can trap user comments and opinions, which can then be stored for quick retrieval and summarisation. There are many advantages to web-based systems but no web-based system can observe actual behavior. Usually some combination of web technology and observation-based validation provides the most accurate result.
  5. Timing (of the initiative and other things going on in the organization) –  plan an assessment in concert with the initiative scheduling process. Sometimes when senior management announces a timeline for an initiative it does not consider the assessment. The assessment becomes an afterthought and then must be rushed. While not the optimum way to execute, good planning and frequent communication can help overcome this shortfall.
  6. Organizational culture (receptiveness or resistance to assessment) – If this is the first time an organization has undergone a formal assessment, it is normal to see significant organizational resistance. The best way to overcome this is by meticulous planning and frequent communication. Organizations used to such events will be able to move faster with less communication.
  7. Availability of people (resource bandwidth given the type of work being performed) – a survey or interview will require an hour or so of preparation and an hour in an actual interview or survey. Management must create a safe ground for employees to participate.

Once the above is understood and agreed to by the target organization and the assessment team, development of the interview schedule, or in the case of a web-based tool, a deployment plan should commence. Schedules need to be specific about times, locations, names, titles and functional responsibility. The organization being assessed typically provides an administrative resource to manage and communicate the master schedule and changes which may occur during the course of interviews..

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