What? So what? Now what?

Sounds like an evaluation problem.

King and Stevahn (in press) tells us the first query requires thoughtful observation of a situation; the second query a discussion of possible options and implications of those options, and the third query calls for the creation of a list of potential next steps.adaptive_action.wiki

Yet these are the key words for “adaptive action” (If you haven’t looked at the web site, I suggest you do.) One quote that is reflective of adaptive action is, “Adaptive Action reveals how we can be proactive in managing today and influencing tomorrow.”( David W. Jamieson, University of St. Thomas). Adaptive action can help you

  • Understand the sources of uncertainty in your chaotic world
  • Explore opportunities for action and their implications as they occur
  • Learn a simple process that cuts through complexity
  • Transform the work of individuals, teams, organizations and communities
  • Take on any challenge—as large as a strategic plan or small as a messy meeting
  • Take action to improve productivity, collaboration and sustainability

Evaluation is a proactive (usually) activity (oh, I know that sometimes evaluation is flying by the seat of your pantsflying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-Laurence-Musgrove-with-credit-line  and is totally reactive). People are now recognizing that evaluation will benefit them, their programs, and their organizations and that it isn’t personal (although that fear is still out there).

Although the site is directed towards leadership in organizations, the key questions are evaluative. You can’t determine “what” without evidence (data); you can’t determine “so what” unless you have a plan (logic model), and you can’t think about “now what” unless you have an outcome that you can move toward. These questions are evaluative in contemporary times because there are no simple problems any more. (Panarchy approaches similar situations using a similar model  adaptive-cycle Action.) Complex situations are facing program people and evaluators all the time. Using adaptive action may help. Panarchy may help (the book is called Panarchy by Gunderson and Hollings panarchy .)

Just think of adaptive action as another model of evaluation.

mytwo cents


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2 thoughts on “Adaptive action–evaluation by another name?

  1. Thanks for the great post! You got me thinking about the link between leadership and evaluation. I recently completed a leadership program here in Saskatoon (as a participant), which on the surface may seem an odd fit for an independent consultant who does not have any staff or direct reports: however, I came to realize that consulting generally and evaluation specifically is a form of leadership in supporting learning and growth. With this adaptive model, it shines a light the other way, as leaders need to have a constant awareness of the context (including themselves) and plans and outcomes to steer by (even if those elements may change over time!).

    Some good food for thought, may lead to a post on this topic on my site (preferably after the coffee has kicked in). Thanks again!

  2. I see a strong relationship between leadership, consulting, and evaluation, Brian. It is not easy, to be sure. And the relationship is a changing one. Adaptive action can be used in a variety of ways.

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