Leveraging Evaluation During a Crisis: An Imperative, Not an Option

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Virtually every organization, institution, or company will at some point in its history face one or more major crises. Compounding those crises, these entities will undoubtedly be judged based on their response and management of such moments. For many of us, that moment is now. The global pandemic that COVID-19 has produced has rocked the foundation for many agencies, corporations, school districts, and colleges alike. As these groups all work to develop and launch contingency and continuity plans to execute their standard operations and preserve their business practices for clients, consumers, and students, it’s not enough to simply have a “plan.” There must also be intentional tools developed to measure and determine the effectiveness of such plans and other vital areas. Process evaluation (also known as implementation evaluation) is one such tool. Though many may consider evaluation as an exercise exclusively for programs, the frameworks for evaluation can also be useful in evaluating crisis management policies and plans.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s “Program Evaluation for Public Health Programs” guide, “implementation evaluations (process evaluations) document whether a program has been implemented as intended—and why or why not? In process evaluations, you might examine whether the activities are taking place, who is conducting the activities, who is reached through the activities, and whether sufficient inputs have been allocated or mobilized.” These steps can be especially valuable to implement not just at the end but also mid-stream in the midst of a major crisis as a means to capture immediate feedback and to course-correct along the way. Most importantly, these evaluations create guidance and a roadmap for how to address the next crisis that will inevitably happen.  

The organizational changes occurring in the current climate are staggering, and what’s more, they may become the new normal indefinitely. It’s imperative that every industry incorporates elements of a process evaluation alongside their crisis management plans and other practices. Below are five standard questions that can easily be adapted for a process evaluation within many different sectors:

  1. Is/was there a clear written plan and rationale developed and what are/were the key components?
  2. What tools or resources were used to implement the plan? How effective were those tools/resources?
  3. Who was involved with the implementation of the plan? How, if at all, were those individuals trained to implement the plan? How effective was that training?
  4. How well did we communicate the plan with internal stakeholders (e.g., staff, board members) and external stakeholders (e.g., clients, customers, students)?
  5. How satisfied were the stakeholders (e.g., staff, parents, clients, customers, students) with our plan or actions?

Among the least burdensome and most efficient methods to measure these and other questions are stakeholder surveys. If capacity allows, virtual focus groups and interviews can also be utilized.

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