Monday, March 5, 2012

Measuring results

If you go out to dinner - how do you assess how good your experience is? The quality of the food, the service, the comfort of the surroundings, the noise level ... do you ask how many hours the cook has spent cooking?  How much the basic ingredients cost?  How long they take to do their VAT return? How long people have trained for their jobs? You might ask out of interest but the answers probably wouldn't affect your rating of your dining experience.

Within the charity world we have come a long way in measuring outcomes - in non-jargon - we measure what has changed.  We used to measure outputs - that is what was produced - in the dining analogy this would be the food, the length of time to order, the cost, the space between tables .... anything about the experience that could be measured in terms of the end result but not the impact on the diner.

In Unitarian circles we struggle with any kind of measurement, we are a bit unsure how this fits with our ethos.  However what we often get told is the inputs.  It cost this much, these many people were involved, they gave up this much time and they travelled these many miles. I am not sure what we are meant to make of this. At best people tell us that they are committed to the task but in some instances one is left wondering, 'How did it take so long?' At best it is open governance and at worst it is raising the flag of the martyr - look at what I have sacrificed for you.

Another response that I have heard a couple of times is, 'We're doing our best'. This is the most scary because if people are doing their best there is only one way to go and that's down.  I would much rather people spent less time being more efficient.  I would also much rather hear what has changed.

In psychological terms we need to move our discussion of achievements into the adult sphere, leave the emotional baggage behind and deal with the business. This is what has changed because of what we have done.  Hurrah! we would all say.

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