The success of an organization is based on its ability to adapt and adopt necessary changes to maintain its influence and performance. Before making important decisions, the organization needs to investigate its current situation, analyzing different aspects. Organizational assessment helps organizations to understand what they can change to improve.
What is organizational assessment and evaluation and how can it help businesses improve efficiency and increase profit? Below, we will explore the mission of organizational assessment and evaluation, defining the process, and introducing tools and methods. We’ll follow with a review of the common questions surrounding the organizational assessment and evaluation process. The assessment and evaluation of an organization is a crucial step to ensure long-term success and there are many factors that need to be analyzed, such as structure, management, staff, services, and finances.
Defining organizational assessment and evaluation
Organizational assessment and evaluation is a process that aims to evaluate the performance of an organization by analyzing different areas and factors. Organizations require an evaluation because they need to locate points of strength, risks, and areas that need improvement. Organizational assessment can be useful in the decision-making process because organizations need to be aware of all the factors that influence performance in order to plan for the future. Organizational assessment can help to identify resources to improve performance and increase the bottom line. In specific stages of development, organizational assessment is a crucial step to make decisions related to mission, growth, investments, and partnerships.
What are organizational assessment tools and methods?
The assessment and evaluation of an organization needs to be planned in advance because it is a complex process that requires time, money, and collaboration among the team that evaluates it and the staff of the organization. As the process may temporarily divert the energy and efforts of the organization, it is essential that the tools and methods are efficient and focused on the areas of interest. The specific elements that are typically considered during an organizational assessment are:
- Management: Management structure and performance
- Staff: Staff skills, requirements, and performance
- Services and facilities: Services that support management and staff, such as administrative support, technology, and maintenance facilities
- Financial issues: Income, expenses, and marketing
- Tasks and organization: Structure of the organization, skills needed to perform specific tasks, and reward systems
The team in charge of the evaluation needs to consider all the different factors that might influence the process. The are the main focal points to keep in mind during an assessment are: tasks can be assigned to groups or individuals, so it is essential to consider group dynamics and conflicts to evaluate if the activities are focused on common goals; an organization is affected by the external environment, so it is crucial to evaluate the external factors that influence the performance of the organization; and the most challenging assessment area is the intersection of key factors such as organizational performance, behavioral aspects, and environmental variables.
To assess the performance of an organization, the team in charge of evaluation needs to collect data on all the structural, economic, and behavioral dimensions—using an integrated approach. Data can be collected in a variety of ways, including:
All the methods mentioned above need to be supported by data that come from documents and records, which can provide a history of the organization and physical evidence of certain practices.
This method is often used in the beginning of the assessment because it is less invasive and allows the evaluator to act as a member of the organization, observe events as they unfold, and take notes. This is defined as an unstructured observation. As evaluators gather more information, they can opt for a structured observation. In this case, the evaluators follow specific guidelines and instruments to conduct the observation. The data gathered through observation support the information obtained through questionnaires and interviews.
Questionnaires are an easy and economical method to get responses and record them. This tool is often used on large groups, and it provides a limited insight compared to individual and group interviews. It can be useful in the first stages of an assessment. Questionnaires can have open-ended questions that require more thought, or closed-ended questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” The types of questions used for questionnaires depend on the goals of the evaluation.
Individual interviews are a common method used to assess the performance of an organization. If the interviewers are skilled and are able to put the person at ease, they can gather large amounts of data. When interviewees feel comfortable, they are more likely to share their issues, desires, and perceptions. Also in this case, questions can be broader, or they can be more focused and accompanied by alternative responses that the interviewee can choose from. Interviews can also be done in groups, involving ten or more people and a moderator, who are gathered to discuss different aspects of a specific topic. This type of interview is usually recorded using audio or video.
Common organizational assessment questions
When there is a need for organizational assessment, companies are often unsure of how to proceed because they want to ensure they can get concrete results and focus on the areas that have the biggest impact on the organization. The following are common organizational assessment questions that companies ask.
Do organizations need an external assessment?
One of the first decisions that organizations have to take related to the assessment is if they want a self-assessment or an external assessment, or to combine the two strategies. Self-assessment could be a great step to move forward in the right direction, and it could contribute to creating a better dialogue among the people who work in the organization, but external assessment can guarantee the independence and validity of the results.
What should be the focus of the assessment?
“In any complex organization, there are innumerable ‘things’ that can be measured and studied. An effective assessment process focuses on those things that have the greatest impact on the way the organisation functions.” Kathleen Immordino, career government professional, wrote in her book Organizational Assessment and Improvement in the Public Sector. She believes that the focus of the assessment depends on the type of organization and its mission. There are three key questions that might help the organization to decide which questions to ask themselves to choose the focus of the assessment process.
- How much time is needed to answer the questions and what are the resources available to answer each question?
- What is the purpose of conducting an assessment?
- Is there a need to balance the interests of multiple stakeholders?
Once organizations answer these questions, they need to identify all the factors that affect those specific areas of interest. This step can be long and challenging because some factors might appear useful, but they are not. During this phase, it is important to analyze every aspect deeply and narrow down priorities.
What are the challenges of the assessment?
The organizational assessment can present many different challenges that occur at different stages. Some of the most common challenges include:
- Complexity. Evaluations become complex because data sources often include multiple internal and external factors. While being meticulous and thorough in gathering, interpreting, and analyzing findings, evaluators must have the ability to conclusively circle back to a high level perspective in order to be the most effective in communicating results to organizations.
- Misinterpretation. The way the organization interprets the evaluation can become complicated depending on the level of resources they have. If an evaluator is working with a smaller organization, it’s possible they do not have staff skilled in interpreting evaluation findings. Therefore, results need to define and communicate clear goals and strategies, avoiding space for interpretation.
- Integrity. Other challenges include maintaining respect and integrity during the evaluation, not imposing on others’ workspace, and collecting objective data since management and staff could give biased opinions during interviews.
- Flexibility. Evaluators must able to manage the uncertainty and change that occurs in their personal work. They also need to know how to manage an uncooperative executive team and adapt quickly when there is a change in management or key stakeholders.
There are many things to consider before and during an organizational assessment. It is crucial that the organization is committed to finding the best tools and methods for specific goals. Then, the organization needs to be open to receiving feedback, adapting, and finding new strategies to succeed.
Become an organizational development consultant
If you have an interest in organizational development, the Online Master of Science in Evaluation and Applied Research offered by Claremont Graduate University gives you the opportunity to gain the necessary knowledge and experience to support organizations and help them succeed. This program will enhance your research and analysis skills and prepare you to meet clients’ program evaluation needs.
Learn more about Claremont Graduate University’s Master of Science in Evaluation and Applied Research.