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Home > Performance Management Checklists > Evaluating Projects and Programs

Performance Management Checklists

Evaluating Projects and Programs


Checklist Description

This checklist outlines the importance of conducting adequate evaluation of projects and programs both during and after their implementation.

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Definition

The role that evaluation should play in projects and programs is sometimes underestimated, with many regarding evaluation as a process that should be carried out to assess the effectiveness of a project or program only after its completion. Although this is plainly an important element of the evaluation process, evaluation during implementation can provide valuable indicators as to how the project or program is meeting its early objectives, potentially providing managers with the benefit of an opportunity to amend the implementation strategy at an early stage. Moreover, if a project’s objectives are clearly established and understood in advance, this lessens the risk that those involved in implementation will stray from the objectives. The extent to which a project has achieved its stated goals should be documented as part of the process of effective evaluation, both during and after rollout. This can help managers to understand, on the basis of a continuous monitoring process, which aspects have gone well and which need improvement.

Given the widespread acknowledgment that lessons can be learned from the varying success of different aspects of any project, documentation of progress during the implementation of a project can also be important. Effective documentation can also help to support the case for budget extensions, with the result that projects or programs with transparency in terms of how they have delivered on their goals and how the budget has been spent should stand a better chance of further funding.

Though the particular method of evaluation may vary between sectors and industries, there are several key questions which can be set to evaluate the level of success of a project or program after its full implementation:

  • To what extent were the main stated objectives achieved?

  • Which aspects were most successful, and which were least so? Data should be collected, analyzed, and presented to back up this, using measures of success defined before the project was implemented.

  • Why was there greater success in some areas than in others?

  • What lessons can be learned from this for the future?

  • How can these findings best be distributed within the organization so that others can learn from our experiences?

In all instances, the groundwork for effective project evaluation should be done ahead of the project’s implementation, including the setting of clearly defined objectives and parameters by which the level of success can be judged. Evaluation should never be left until the project nears completion. Most project managers stress the importance of the “learning” aspect to ensure that successful methods can be replicated in future, and lessons can also be gained from those aspects which did not deliver the anticipated level of success.

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Advantages

  • Early evaluation during implementation can identify aspects that need a rethink, potentially increasing the prospects of overall success.

  • Evaluation can provide valuable feedback for budgeting purposes, with evidence of success justifying future funding.

  • Effective evaluation provides valuable lessons for future projects and programs.

  • By clearly defining responsibilities, a specified individual or team is given ownership to act should a project need modification part way through. The project team should know who holds this responsibility.

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Disadvantages

  • Effective evaluation can be compromised if project managers rely exclusively on subjective criteria to judge success.

  • Some participants may need convincing of the need to devote valuable time to collect the data required to assess success effectively.

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Action Checklist

  • Set clearly defined and verifiable project or program objectives.

  • Determine objective parameters before rollout that can later be used to help assess the level of success.

  • During implementation, wherever possible perform provisional evaluation to determine what is working well and what is not, amending the strategy where appropriate.

  • On completion, collect, analyze, and interpret success parameters, using them to help determine what went well and what didn’t.

  • Evaluate whether the overall cost of the project or program exceeded budget in the context of the benefits delivered.

  • Document and distribute conclusions to emphasize lessons that can be learned for the future.

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Dos and Don’ts

Do

  • Do establish formal objectives, budgets, and parameters for a project; these play an important role in the subsequent evaluation.

  • Do select a dedicated individual or team to collect and evaluate data which can be used to judge the overall success of the project or program.

Don’t

  • Don’t make false economies in collecting data—robust, objective indicators are needed to help evaluate success.

  • Don’t expect every aspect of a project or program to be 100% successful initially—the point of continuous monitoring is that improvements can be implemented until the project meets its stated goals.

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Further reading

Books:

  • Payne, David A. Designing Educational Project and Program Evaluations: A Practical Overview Based on Research and Experience. Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic, 1994.
  • Samset, Knut. Project Evaluation: Making Investments Succeed. Trondheim, Norway: Tapir Academic Press, 2003.

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