Evaluation in the new year

7 01 2010

While the big chill continues, there’s certainly lots of research activity to keep Ashridge braincells warm as 2010 gets going.  A few snippets of interest:

We’ve won a bid with the Institute of Customer Service for a research project on Return on Investment in Customer Facing Initiatives.  This will leverage the extensive experience of Ashridge researchers and Associates in the area of evaluation, and specificially the thorny issue of ROI. 

While that project is getting underway, other evaluation work is chugging along, including work with Earthwatch, E.on and a project focusing on learning transfer that is employing Robert Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method as a pragmatic methodology for evaluation. 

Our capacity to deliver evaluation work has increased, actually, with the arrival of Professor John Burgoyne Dr. Sadie Williams from their recent affiliation with Henley to work in association with Ashridge on evaluation projects.  This is great news, as client demand in this area seems to be growing!

I personally have just completed a major literature review on evaluation and what it says about the impact of management education.  It’s interesting to see how the focus has shifted over time from designs that emphasised the experimental and involved control groups, attempts to minimise all variables other than those under study etc, towards holistic, explanatory, single-case designs. There is less emphasis on quantifying impact, and more on understanding the complex suite of factors that interplay to provide value (or not) to an organisation and the individuals within it from management development.  Of course, what is published in the academic literature – where I focused for this particular piece of work – is not necessarily representative of the wider field of practice.  It may be the case that similar shifts are going on in how organisations in general are judging the value of management development, though I suspect that levels of evaluation activity – for all sorts of good reasons – are in general still fairly low. 

So, in sum, amongst all the other research we’re doing, evaluation is quite high on the agenda!