Planning and Evaluation:
Two Sides of the Same Coin
Hellmut W. Eggers1
Planners and Evaluators: Members of the same Team?
Setting the scene
Evaluation is learning from experience in order to improve future project, program and policy work.
There will certainly be many evaluation professionals who will want to modify this definition, bringing in certain aspects they think are important, but bye and large, this wording should not provoke any violent disagreements and will be recognized to capture the essentials. It is understood that, in this definition, evaluation will not exclusively comprise entire projects, programs or policies but also parts of these interventions, as for instance certain activities and procedures, whole organizations or certain of their departments or staff, given products or services and so on. All of these different endeavors (that should exhaust all of the different possibilities) will, however, have to serve the improvement of future work. Yet, there might be more outspoken opposition to the idea, vigorously as well as convincingly defended by Reidar Dale (2004a, 2004b), of closely linking evaluation to planning, as evaluators are known to be very jealous of their independence and have a tendency to keep themselves to themselves. It appears necessary, therefore, to place this idea into a somewhat larger context: If a worker in country C reaches out for a shovel with the intention to load sand onto a truck that will then be driven to the construction site of a well to be used as building material, this is, of course, a gesture that could hardly be simpler. The worker will first of all, imagine—or “plan”— this gesture, and then he will carry it out. He will not pause conscientiously to ask himself whether he has, indeed, reached out for the shovel; that is he will not “evaluate” the execution of his intention. But he will not be able to go on working if he has not followed up with practical action to his intention to reach out for the shovel. Since that is the case, however, he will simply 1
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Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, Number 6
Hellmut W. Eggers
start and go on shoveling until the truck is loaded. Planning and action will coincide 100% as evaluating the action will show. Planning security will be almost 100%, almost because there is still the remote possibility that the poor man might be flattened by a stroke just at the moment when trying to grab the shovel. The thin line dividing past and future will be present even during the one second space dividing the worker’s intention to reach for the shovel and the subsequent action. It is worthwhile to pause for just a moment to ask why planning security in this case is, for all intents and purposes, 100%. It is because in this case: The time space between planning and evaluation is short, about a second; The geographical space of the action is limited, say one square meter; The number of people involved is low: just one;
Since action corresponds 100% to intention, in other words since planning and evaluation show a seamless match, nothing is to be learned from evaluation in this case, or so one would think. Not so! Evaluation should not only check the match between planning and action/achievement but also the quality of the planning! Is it not possible that the worker’s grab for the shovel from a slightly different angle than the one he planned might have used up less energy and time, say three quarters of a second instead of one? It is! And this might not be a joke either, as the Taylor’s well-known studies have shown with small lights fixed to the limbs of shoveling workers to ascertain the optimum (shortest) sequence of movements that would use up the least time and energy. Only if our worker would have made his grab for the shovel...
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