Evaluation: When Are You Too Involved?

board development and revitalization oversight and accountability: measurement roles and responsibilities Oct 10, 2022
Board Evaluating Programs and Services


One of the four unique functions of not-for-profit boards is ensuring the monitoring, assessing, evaluating, and auditing of programs and services, in addition to finances. But how do you do this? When are you too involved?


At the most basic level, programs and services should be approved only with key success factors clearly defined in terms of expected outcomes, and their means of assessment. And we focus on ends, not means.


But what of existing programs and services? We still focus on ends, not means.


But this can be one of those areas where the black and white line of management versus policy becomes blurred, the proverbial grey zone…

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How can you make good policy if you know nothing of management? How do you learn about management and operations without becoming involved in your Chief Executive Officer’s arena?


Some boards are completely hands-off. Management determines if programs and services are effective, by whatever means, according to whatever measurements. This can be irresponsible.


Other boards determine not just the what, but also the how, when and by whom. Some even conduct evaluations themselves. This can be intrusive.


Of course, every agency is a unique social culture with a history of policies and procedures. So what works for one will not work for another.


One approach which works extremely well for some organizations, especially larger ones, but some consider overreach, is Gemba. I have seen examples in real-time with assessment dashboards which boards come to understand and use for continual improvement -- when they know what they mean.


Gemba analysis or Gemba walks involve the action of going to see the actual process, understanding the work, asking questions, and learning. It is also a fundamental part of Lean management philosophy. It refers to the place where value is created, likely somewhere in your organization where products are made, and services delivered.


Insanity is of course doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.


The Gemba walk allows board members to observe the actual work process, interact with employees, gain knowledge about the work process, and explore opportunities for continuous improvement.


Within this Lean tool there are 3 important elements:

  1. Go and see.
  2. Ask why.
  3. Respect people.


Here are seven steps to follow when doing a Gemba Walk:


Illus source: https://kanbanize.com/es/gestion-lean/mejora-continua/caminata-gemba


Remember the focus is on learning and collaborating, not assessing.
Be prepared with questions.
Observe. Seek first to understand.
Share later what you have learned in a Board discussion.


A free e-book is also available here.


There are many approaches to the Board’s responsibility for ensuring that services and programs are effective in meeting stated outcomes. The Gemba walk or analysis works for some.

What works for you?


What are your main “pain points” dealing with evaluating programs and serices
What advice would be most helpful to you? And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!


Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.


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