Hi evaluators! My name is Patrick Germain and I am the Director of Program Evaluation and Quality Assurance at Project Renewal, and the Founder and Director of Performance Management Professionals, a community of practice based in New York City on issues of Performance Measurement and Management and Evaluation.
Organizations are rife with politics, and politics is often the decisive factor in whether evaluations get used. This is the first of three blog posts on how I navigate and influence organizational politics to ensure that evaluation is appropriately supported and used in decision making.
Week One: Managing Your Evaluation Reputation
When I started this job, I knew that my presence was likely to elicit wary skepticism from program staff – if not outright hostility. So I worked to position myself within the organization to avoid power struggles as much as possible:
Step 1: I clarified my role.
I worked with my team to define our department’s mission, and then broadcasted it as widely and frequently as possible:
Our role is to enhance the agency’s ability to achieve its mission by developing and facilitating processes and systems that measurably improve the quality and effectiveness of our services and operations, and to support agency leadership in managing towards high performance.
By framing my role as one of an internal consultant whose primary goal was to support the agency’s leadership, I was saying that I was there to help them achieve their goals, not just to question everything they were doing.
Step 2: I talked the talk – Now I had to prove it!
I set out to establish relevancy, credibility, and integrity:
- The leadership’s priorities were my priorities – I got the right information to the right people at the right time, and in the right format.
- I made sure that whatever I did was accurate, clear, and actionable.
- I followed through with what I said, and stuck to my guns when I was asked to bend the rules ‘just this once.’
Step 3: I became a problem solver.
One of my least favorite sayings is “It is what it is.” I want to yell out: “But that isn’t what it has to be!” I began to cast myself as the ever-optimistic champion of change, and made sure to get some easy wins under my belt. Anything I could do to solve a problem, I did, no matter how small. We got a faster internet connection, we got the boxes taken out of the back bathroom, we convinced our funder to change their targets, we got carrots for our meetings instead of cookies, we changed the printer defaults to do double sided printing. And on and on. Not only did this win me allies, but people started to understand that we had the power to change the status quo.
Now, people knew that my goal was to help them achieve their goals and that I was trustworthy. They knew that I could help them figure out solutions to their problems and that I was able to achieve results. While none of this was directly about evaluation, these efforts positioned me so that by the time I got around to my evaluations being used, I had created an environment in which I was more likely to be listened to and trusted.
What has worked for you? What strategies have you used position yourself in your organization?
– Patrick Germain
P.S. Want to learn more? Look for me at the American Evaluation Association conference in Minneapolis next month, where I will be presenting on some of these issues.