The Challenges of Managing a Program Evaluation

 

I believe the official phrase is “Jack of all trades.” The less official jest is “Jack of all trades, master of none” with the reasoning that it is difficult to be an expert in everything. Ironically, it has become increasingly clear throughout my courses at Walden that perhaps the phrase should be relearned as, “Jane/Jack of all trades, master of ALL.” Back in the day it was considered a fringe benefit or bonus if an employee showed aptitude in more than one area of job performance. An accountant was expected to be able to do math. A secretary was expected to be able to answer the telephones, type and file. A carpenter could build things from wood. You get the drift. One of negative side effects of the advent of technology (from my perspective) is the skyrocketing expectations of individual’s abilities. We are surrounded by technology and computers that can do many things at once, faster than the speed of …. “The dictum of the past century has been to use technology to improve efficiency, speed, productivity, and even quality of life” (Theall & Franklin, 2001, p. 41). We, as a people, adapt and crave more (often for less). Unfortunately, this mentality seems to have leaked into the corporate world. Gone are the days of realistic expectations for an employee’s performance. These days a person needs to be fluent in communications, politics, technology, program management, assessment/evaluation, corporate history, accounting, and sales. Why not? If I type in a phrase into the Google toolbar, I am instantly transferred to thousands of webpages of information regarding any topic. Aren’t people like a Google toolbar? NO.

The materials for this week’s discussion has not done nothing to change my opinion in this matter, rather, confirmed it yet again. Personally, I still believe that the best practice would be to have a collaborative team work on a project together with an expert program manager. The accountant can do the budgeting, the evaluator can do the evaluating, the instructional designer can create the instruction, human resources can handled the employees, legal can write the contracts, and the sales department can sell everything for the project to the head honchos and then the public. Unfortunately, in today’s competitive world it is to do everything better, faster and effectively with as few resources as possible. Yippee!

That said, there are some smaller projects and/or companies that do not have entire departments teaming with personnel to handle all of the different roles necessary for a project (Fitzpatrick, Sanders, & Worthen, 2011; Portny et al., 2008). Thank goodness Walden has prepared me to not just be an instructional designer, but also a program manager, technology guru, and program evaluator.

In all seriousness, the question was “Based on what you have learned, what do you think would be the most challenging aspect of management a program evaluation? Fortunately, many of the elements required for managing evaluation are within my skill set. The biggest challenges I would face would be negotiating the budget with the finance department because I would want to ensure the various contingencies and eventualities are covered, writing contracts, and working in a large organizational unit. Again, I have to say I absolutely believe writing contracts should fall to legal counsel. As a legal secretary for much of my pre-educated career, I have seen way too many mistakes made by non-experts. The last item, working within a large organizational unit is with the assumption I am working for a company or organization that is larger than 5-10 individuals.

How would you respond to those challenges? Actually, I am teased frequently by associates because I love learning. I enjoy online classes. In addition, I have been known to purchase a textbook just to read. I have taken accounting classes, despite not working within accounting. I am adept at using and learning technology and software. Therefore, my response would likely be more education, more practice, more experience. I have a bit of an eclectic background. I have operated my own company before (a secretarial / resume company). My husband owns a DJ business for which I have done much of the administrative work. I have also taught secondary science. These experiences, in addition to my legal background, would make it fairly easy for me to perform many of the functions of a program evaluator. However, the last item on my list, working within a large organizational unit, could provide more of a challenge.

My only solution for learning how to handle that type of challenge is actually working within a large organizational unit. For example, all of my corporate experience has been with small, micro-companies (employ less than five employees). There is not a lot of “politics” occurring because there really are not enough people to create that much tension. You either get along with the few people you work with or you find another job. On the other hand, as I have mentioned in other posts, when I worked for the high school I went into severe culture shock! Working within a large organization can be highly political. Although I have the benefit of educational experience now (through the courses at Walden) in which to understand and be aware of the political undertones occurring within any organization I am working in, there will still be a process towards actually acquiring skill and competency. Dreyfus posits a five stage model of Novice, Advanced beginner, Competence, Proficiency and Expertise (Baizerman, 2009). If I had to honestly rate myself I would have to say I am probably in the range of competence to proficient, and certainly not close to expertise.

How can technology enhance different management processes in program evaluation?

Technology is a wonder, no doubt about it. It is not surprising that technology can be a supportive tool in program evaluation (Theall & Franklin, 2001). There are many advantages described including, but not limited to: gathering and storing quantitative and qualitative data, reducing usage of non-electronic resources saving time, money and paper, increased data processing speed, increased access to information and communication with individuals in different locales, in addition to software programs allowing for quality control and course management (Theall & Franklin, 2001). Despite these many positives, it is important to remember that the tool is only as good as the person using it. If the wrong questions are asked, the data is misinterpreted, or erroneously compiled, if software is programmed improperly, results can be affected significantly. As much as we like to believe that technology makes everything better, it is also important to realize it could not do so if there was not someone guiding it along the right path.

References

Baizerman, M. (2009). Deepening understanding of managing evaluation. New Directions for Evaluation, 121, 87-98. doi:10.1003/ev.288

Baizerman, M., & Compton, D. (2009). Toward developing competent evaluation managing. New Directions for Evaluation, 121, 99-109. doi:10.1002/ev.289

Fitzpatrick, J. L., Sanders, J. R., & Worthen, B. R. (2011). Program evaluation: Alternative approaches and practical guidelines (4th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Theall, M., & Franklin, J. (2001). Using technology to facilitate evaluation. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 88, 41-50. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

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One thought on “The Challenges of Managing a Program Evaluation

  1. Hi,
    I enjoyed your blog post very much and am referencing it in my current Walden U. class in program evaluation. It is the last one before the capstone. Thank you for such a great post!
    Gayle aka Rocque

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