Understanding the Different Assessment Tools

Organizational Report CardStrategic planning, as a structured and systematic process, is successful when it is leader-led and overcomes the five reasons 70% of all strategies fail. Learn how to see your plan through to success. The strategic planning process is where leaders of an organization establish the vision of the organization’s future and then develop and implement the actions necessary to achieve that future. This article expands on the strategic planning concepts addressed in Think Big, Take Small Steps and is designed to help you achieve success in your strategic planning process.

Knowing What Assessment Tools Exist is Half the Battle.

Last week, I highlighted several organizational assessment tools in my blog How to Conduct an Organizational Assessment. This will be a relatively short blog, compared to my others, because I just want to highlight some tools and in future articles, I will describe them in more detail. Please Follow My Blog to keep up with this running story. If you want to start at the beginning, check out the linked article in the first paragraph.

The most important thing to do, when conducting an assessment, is to structure your approach. I use an approach that I term DOTMLPF – FREE. This covered the areas of Doctrine, Organization, Training, Material, Leadership, Personnel, Facilities, Finances, Relationships, Efficiency, and Effectiveness. This is a fully rounded approach that allows you to score, evaluate, analyze, and report out an organizational assessment. I will fully cover this tool next in Assessing Your Organization Using the Military’s DOTMLPF – FREE Assessment.

When I conduct an organizational assessment, I always use three specific tools: a Stakeholder Assessment, a Change Readiness Assessment, the SWOT Assessment.

  • The Stakeholder Assessment is great for any change-related activity to determine who will be supportive and who will not of the change. It helps to outline what actions you need to take to gain their involve or mitigate their negative influence. Being a certified Prosci practicitioner, I use the ADKAR model for my assessment. All strategic plans, if implemented, result in change, so this is a very helpful tool to prepare for the development and eventual implementation.
  • Additionally, I like to use a Change Readiness Assessment to determine how ready the actual organization is for the upcoming strategic change. This is different than the Stakeholder Assessment, because it looks at change readiness from the organizational point of view. It is very helpful and a relatively short assessment that is easy to perform with a small team.
  • The SWOT assessment, if generally how I report out everything I find from my interviews following the DOTMLPF-FREE format. If you didn’t know, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. As a general rule, I change the word Weaknesses to Challenges–it just goes over better. Most leaders have heard of the term SWOT Analysis from some business class or in the course of their work–seldom do you find anyone who can conduct one. The trick is, that I don’t “conduct” a SWOT Assessment–I assess what I learn about the organization using a SWOT grid and present the results in that manner.

SWOT, in my mind, is a high-level assessment and report. I also assess what I’ve learned from the DOTMLPF-FREE approach through a TIPS Assessment–Trends, Issues, and Problem Statements. What I do, is, using Affinity Diagramming, I build the major TIPS that the organization is faced with. These are also called “Emerging Insights,” which I’ve used in Army Campaign Planning. Under each major issue (defined through the Affinity Diagramming), I provide this general view:

Emerging Insight, Focus Area, or TIP Title
Assessment Observations: Things learned from the research and interviews aligned to this specific area.
Initial Recommendations: Specific recommendations I have, based on the observations, that they need to do to overcome this issue.

When I collect information from my research and interviews, I normally start organizing it in Microsoft Excel under buckets. The beauty of this type of analysis is that it provides the leadership with key areas that they need to work on to make their strategy successful. In many ways, these formulate at least some of the objectives during the facilitated session. Everything else builds to these key items.

You may find use for several other types of assessment and I would love to hear about ones you’ve used, especially if you can share links in the comments below. I love using maturity models for assessing organizations. I’ve even created a specific maturity model when none existed. These models provide a very organized view of the organization’s or domain’s maturity, benchmarks them against industry, and provides a roadmap for them to follow to get better.

Additionally, there are a number of industry specific assessment tools–like a specific assessment to look at non-profits, or assessments to look at finance, information technology, innovation, etc. When you discover a specific (major) challenge with a company, I suggest you research possible assessment tools, or don’t be afraid to create your own. A key point is, normally an assessment tool is nothing more than a structured survey method. All of these assessment tools ask specific questions and the results (answers) formulate the assessment of the organization.

A good example of a powerful assessment tool would be Gallup’s Employee Engagement Survey. This is a widely-use industry standard assessment tool to determine how engaged (or committed) an organization’s employees are. This can be a very helpful assessment and I’ve worked with the results for a couple years now.

Another example, would be ISO 14001–Environmental Management System. For several years, I worked for several EPA and DoD clients in the world of Environmental Management. I used this ISO standard as a key assessment tool for these engagements. This brought a level of professionalism and validity to my work with them, but also gave them something to use year-after-year, much like the Gallup Survey.

The summary of this article, which I expected to be shorter, is that you need to develop a stable of key assessment approaches and tools to analyze and present your analysis in the next phase of the strategic planning effort. You also should be aware of other possible tools for the industry you’re dealing with or tools that can help the organization focus on a specific area. A key factor is that you can overanalyze a situation by bringing in too many tools. Make sure the ones you use are effective and you keep overlap to a minimum. For an example, I use a Stakeholder Assessment and Change Readiness Assessment with every organizational assessment. They both deal with change capability, but they are focused differently and together complement each other.

Stay tuned to future weeks where I will explain some of these specific assessment tools and demonstrate more about how I use them for analysis and for reporting. I will also try to provide at least one example of the tool for your use.

So, 70% of all plans fail to some level; however, by following these guidelines you can help ensure your strategic plan will be one of the 30% successes that everyone reads about.

Related Links (find three links related to the topic of the article):

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWOT_analysis
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOTMLPF
3. http://www.gallup.com/

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About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

6 Responses to Understanding the Different Assessment Tools

  1. Pingback: Think Big, Take Small Steps | John R. Knotts

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  3. Pingback: How to Conduct an Organizational Assessment | John R. Knotts

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  5. Pingback: The Robust SWOT Assessment | John R. Knotts

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