If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there – Yogi Berra
Next week, Karen and I will be facilitating an online version of one of NEO’s oldest workshops, Planning Outcomes-Based Outreach Projects for the Health Science Information Section of the North Dakota Library Association.The main tool we teach in this workshop is the program logic model, but our key takeaway message is this: Figure out where you’re going before you start driving.
If you drive to a new place, your navigator app will insist on a destination, right? Well, I’m like an evaluation consulting app: those who work with me on evaluation planning have to define what they hope to accomplish before we start designing anything.
In fact, I get positively antsy until we nail down the desired end results. If I’m helping a colleague develop a needs assessment, I want to know how he or she plans to use the data. To design a program evaluation process, I have to know how the project team defines success. When consulting with others on survey design, I help them determine how each question will provide them with actionable information.
My obsession with outcomes crept into my personal life years ago. Before I sign up for continuing education or personal development workshops, I consider how they will change my life. When my husband and I plan vacations, we talk about what we hope to gain on our trip. Do we want to connect with friends? See a new landscape? Catch up on some excellent Chicago comedy? Outcomes-thinking may be an occupational hazard for evaluation professionals. Case in point: Have you seen Karen Vargas’s birthday party logic model?
Top 5 Reasons to Love Outcomes
So how did I become an outcomes geek? Here are the top five reasons:
How to Steer by Outcomes
When I work with individuals or small project teams, here are the questions we address when trying to identify program outcomes:
These questions help small project teams identify outcomes and figure out how to measure them. If you want a larger group to participate in your outcomes-planning discussion, consider adapting the Nine Whys exercise from Liberating Structures.
Once the outcomes are identified, you’re ready to check the logical connection between your program strategies and your planned results. The logic model is a great tool for this stage of planning. The NEO’s booklet Planning Outcomes-Based Programs provides detailed guidance for how to create project logic models.
Yogi Berra famously said “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” I would paraphrase that to say “When you come to a fork in the road, check your outcomes and proceed.”