A couple of weeks ago, I published an article regarding “The Five Why’s,” and their role in process improvement.  If you delve deeper into Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma training, you’ll discover that the Five Why’s usually lead to the root cause of an issue, and the usual root cause is a poor decision made in the past by management at the time.  The task then becomes how to rectify the deficiency so that the process can be improved.

Evaluating a process takes time.  Moreover, once a plan is in place to improve the process, there will be additional steps necessary, such as training, to ensure the improved process is implemented and eventually takes root.  It’s also very important to note that results may, and probably, will not be, immediate.  Process improvement takes additional time, and improvements are usually recognized incrementally.  As processes improve, their associated percentages tend to decrease, which can cause those monitoring and managing the process to think that something has gone wrong – which would be an erroneous assumption.

For instance, say enrollment in your school is at 150 students, after declining for the past 3 years.  New processes are then instituted, and enrollment increases to 160 students.   That’s a 6.7% increase!  The following year, 10 more students are added, so that enrollment is now at 170.  That’s only a 6.25% increase over the previous year.  But then, say 10 more students are enrolled, bringing the total to 180.  That’s only a 5.9% increase over the previous year.  Notice how the percentages go down, even though the net increase has remained consistent.  In order for percentages to increase, yearly amounts need to increase significantly to maintain an ascending percentage pattern.  This is what’s meant by the Law of Diminishing Returns.  Similarly, as measurements become more precise, tolerances decrease.  It’s usually more difficult to get from a 95% to a 96% than it is to get from an 81% to an 88%.

So how can processes be evaluated, since process-orientation is usually significantly different from system-orientation?  Let’s use a system to evaluate a process, one which has five elements, and each element begins, conveniently, with the letter “E.”  Then, we have to ask, “Is it” prior to each “E” element.  The “Izits” in the title of this article are a construct created from these words.  Also keep in mind the “emergent principle” of the system is “Evaluation.”  Lots of “E” words, but that makes it a little “E”asier to remember.

“Evaluation” is different from “Assessment,” too.  The words are not interchangeable synonyms.  According to Wikipedia, “Evaluation” is “a systematic determination of a subject’s merit, worth and significance, using criteria governed by a set of standards.”  “Assessment,” or, more specifically, educational assessment, is “the process of documenting, usually in measurable terms, knowledge, skill, attitudes, and beliefs.”  In other words, assessment is the process of documentation; evaluation then applies what is gleaned from assessment to performance.

But rather than discussing a learner’s performance, let’s apply these five “izits” to process or product evaluations, and ask, “Is it:”

Effective – does it work as I expected it to?

Easy – especially if it was promoted as being easy?

Efficient – saves me time and money while increasing business?

Evolving – responsive to my suggestions as a customer and congruent with expectations relative to current technology?

Enjoyable – especially regarding technology, is it visually pleasing, and continues to “wow” me as a user?

Notice also that all five of the above elements are more in line with the affective domain rather than the cognitive one.  That’s another reason why assessment is a priori to evaluation.  Each of the elements speak to how an individual relates to the process, product or service.  If there are two individuals performing the same evaluation, their responses could be complete opposites of the other because of the individuals backgrounds, familiarity, and propensities relative to technology, change and/or interest, which all may be influenced by a number of divergent factors.

As an example, someone who is excited about new technologies and their utilization may have a completely different evaluation of a product or process than another individual who is comfortable with the way they’ve been doing things for the past twenty years.

Just as process improvement requires researching the “Five Why’s,” system improvement requires that all the elements need to be identified and recognized, and ensure that a process improvement within the elements serves to improve the system, rather than creating unintended consequences within the system.  If a process is improved in one element of a system, but doing so causes constraints within other elements of the system, the evaluation process needs to continue so that the system can optimally function.

© Michael V. Ziemski and SchoolAdvancement, 2016-2021