Evaluation to organisational learning practices
Organisation make decisions which are routine, daily in nature, operational or strategic in nature; which has to do with the corporate or organisational plan on how to operate and carry out its function in order to effectively and efficiently attain its objectives and goals. These decisions sometimes result in consequences that are not favourable to the organisation. Sometimes the organisation stands to pay dearly for embarking on the wrong decision, or making a nice decision at the wrong time.
Thus, organisational learning is a way out and a field, which contemporary organisations have adopted in learning to detect and make corrections to erroneous decisions in the operational strategy of the organisation. The context and content of the organisation’s operations are studied; the vicissitude associated with it is taking into cognisance. And how this affects the organisational managerial functions of Planning, Organising, Staffing, co-ordinating, Reporting and Budgeting, is also studied so as to bring about effective and efficient decision making in the organisation.
What role does evaluation play in the organisational learning practices? Since evaluation is a useful tool in the hands of managers of administration, it is seen that evaluation approaches set good record at providing accurate, valid and appropriate information in individual and the organisational successful decision making. Thus, the kernel of this write up is to peruse and critically analyse the contribution of evaluation to organisational learning practices. CONCEPTUALISATION OF TERMS What Is Organisational Learning?
A prominent scholar that has contributed immensely in the field of organisational learning is Prof. Chris Argyris. He has to his credit several books on organisational learning. And also the works of Don Schon is highly recognised. Learning accordion to Argyris and Schon (1978:2), involves the detection and correction of error. Organisational learning concerns on how organisations learn to be positioned effectively in detecting and making correction to unfavourable decision and organisational strategy.
The rapid changing environment that most organisations assume had made the acquisition of new knowledge difficult and problematic. “Even if change is endemic this is questionable. As well as being proactive or simply passive, organisations may also be victims of excessive change” (Mande, 2005). As a way of carrying out organisational learning, Argyris and Schon (1974), came up with the Single-Loop Learning and Double-Loop Learning. In Single-Loop learning, given or chosen goals, values, plans and rules are operationalised rather than questioned.
According to smith (2001), single-loop learning seems to be present when goals, values, frameworks and to a significant, extent strategies are taken for granted. In single-loop learning the underlying programme is not questioned; the overwhelming amount of learning done in an organisation is single-loop learning, since it is designed to identify and correct errors so that the job gets done and the action remains within stated policy, guidelines. (Argyris, 1993). Single-loop learning is described as a thermostat that learns when it is hot or too cold and turns the heat on or off.
This is performed with the information received by the thermostat regarding the room temperature and take corrective measures. The Double-loop learning gives question to governing variables themselves, to subject them to critical scrutiny. Such learning may them lead to an alteration in the governing variables and, thus, a shift in the way in which strategies and consequences are framed. (Argyris and Schon, 1974). To Usher and Bryant (1989:87), “Double-loop learning involves questioning the role of framing and learning systems which underlie actual goals and strategies.
Argyris (1974; 1982; 1990) argues that double –loop learning is necessary if practitioners and organisations are to make informed decisions in rapidly changing and often uncertain contexts Edmondson and Moingeon (1990:160) puts it that; The underlying theory, supported by years of empirical research, is that the reasoning processes employed by individuals in organisations inhibit the exchange of relevant information in ways that make double-loop learning difficult and all but impossible in situations in which much is at stake. This create a dilemma as these are the very organisational situations in which double-loop learning is most needed.
The diagram below illustrate and represent the process of organisational single and double-loop learning. Source: Mark K. smith 2001, Chris Argyris: Theories of action, double – loop learning and organisational learning. The diagram illustrates that consequences from the organisational decisions and strategies that are unfavourable under the single-loop learning, these are modified in line with organisation’s actions and strategy, but under the double-loop learning there is an over all change and revert to other governing variables that seem better and operationalisable in effective attainment of the organisational goal.
What Is Evaluation ? In the process of making decisions about organisation practices and strategies many alternatives are forgone for a chosen one. And it become necessary to assess the chosen option so as to know if really it meets its target or in other words, if the choice for choosing it is not a wrong choice. In this same vain, Fadeyi (1999:74), has it that “Once appropriate alternatives have been isolated, the next step in decision making is to evaluate them and select the one that will best contribute to the goal.
This is the point of ultimate decision making”. Evaluation, according to Williams (2005), is a field that accurately, validly, and rigorously explores the values or worth of human activities. The term is most commonly applied to the assessment of publicly funded social programs, but can cover just about any to include many elements which make it useful in decision making. However, to Oksanen (2005), “evaluation is not a magic cure for all situations; rather, the launch of an evaluation has to be well-planned and it must be based on clear goals.
Evaluation is an assessment of set plan, decision or strategy of an organisation or individual, or a group etc, to see if they are able to effectively meet the target, objectives or goals to which they are drawn to meet. Thus, evaluation enables any organisation to know whether to modify and existing organisation an existing organisation plan or strategy, or to put it aside and choice another alternative, or better still to keep on adopting the same strategy and plan if there is no variance between its expected result and actual result.
Though, sometimes evaluation has not successfully bring together individual and organisational decision making. As Williams (2005) puts it “Established evaluation approaches have a good record at providing accurate, valid and appropriate insights, but have had mixed success in getting these incorporated into individual and organisation decision making”. Nevertheless evaluation has been an effective tool in better decision making in organisation. METHODS OF EVALUATION According to Williams (2005), the methods of evaluation have been drawn from the applied social sciences.
Interview, survey and small group processes have been the dominant data collection tool, written reports and oral presentation have been the dominant reporting tools. The inherent assumption that underpins most evaluates data leads to reliable information; and reliable information influences appropriate organisational and individual behaviour. In the view of Fadeyi (1999:74), two major methods of evaluation are; 1. Marginal Analysis: This is an evaluation system whereby the additional revenue and the additional costs are compared.
This can be used where the objective is profit maximisation, which may require optimum use of machines that can be achieved when additional input equal output. 2. Cost Effectiveness Analysis: Cost effectiveness, in its simplest form, is a technique for choosing from among alternatives, by identify a preferred choice when objectives are far less specific than those expressed by such clear quantities as analysis does is to force the decision maker to see various alternatives, by identifying a preferred choice when objectives are far less specific than those expressed by such clear quantities as sales, costs or profits.
All cost effectiveness analysis does is to force the decisions makers to see various alternative in light of their effectiveness versus their costs. CONTRIBUTION OF EVALUATION TO ORGANISATIONAL LEARNING PRACTICES. Evaluation, as discussed earlier, is an effective tool for decision making and choosing the right and feasible options among given alternative choices. Through it an organisation is able to receive an operating strategy for the organisation that would make it attain its objectives and goals, not only effectively, but also efficiently.
Thus, evaluation plays a significant and key role in an organisational learning practice. Evaluation ahs a prominent role in the extensive organisations such as ministries and research institutes, evaluation practices has enhanced the capability of this organisation to make extensive reforms. Thus, institutional evaluation become more potent than research and development programme which is indirect and takes place within a longer time span “institutional evaluation, on the other hand is easier to detect compared to the potential effects that an R & D programme evaluation can have on the evaluated activity” (Oksanen 2005).
Another contribution of evaluation to organisational learning practice is that it makes an organisation to be in a position to choose and make decision on the corrective measure to adopt on policy plans and organisation strategy that its consequences are not effective enough to meet the set goals and objectives. Hence, an organisation would be in a better position, after conducting its evaluation, whether to adopt the single-loop or double-loop learning method.
“Evaluation information is seen to be closely intertwined with other relevant sources at the decision makers disposal”. (ibid. ) Here, evaluation makes the task of choosing he mode for organisational learning easy; since assessment would have being made to see what the organisation ahs done, and what it is suppose to do. This will place them in a better position to make better decision in this regard. Evaluation stands as a management tool that plays several functions in the organisation management and learning practices.
According to Oksanen (2005), “a recurring view associated evaluation with cost awareness both at the level of an individual research organisation. Programme, and at the level of the national R & D. system as a whole” As a management tool evaluation is not only seen as a tool of ensuring the accountability and relevance of development activity in an organisation, but also as a procedure closely linked with internal development and learning. Hence, evaluation is a tool to conscientise and makes organisation staff to reflect on what they do and the role they play in the organisation.
As Oksanen (2005), put it, “evaluation process offered the staff an opportunity to pause for a moment and to reconsider what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how they are doing it”. This way evaluation brings out the week points of stays and through the organisation learning practice corrective measures are taken to strengthen and armed these lapses in the organisation. Closely related to the above point is that evaluation makes an organisation know its strengths and weaknesses. Thus giving it the opportunity to correct and strengthen its weaknesses.
Illustrating this with ALNAP, annual review in 2001, with the aid of its evaluation reports, the report has it that, “it would appear that in some areas at least, co-ordination being a case in point, this year’s results are better … this year’s sample provides a more positive picture than last year’s… the ability of the ALNAP Annual Review series to highlight recurring problem areas within the Humanitarian Sector represents in itself a positive contribution”. (ALNAP Annual Review, 2003). Evaluation has helped the ALNAP organisation to know: ? Which organisations, and co-ordination bodies that are best placed to tackle the recurring problems.
? If they consciously own the problem, i. e. are the issues being actively considered by key bodies within the sector. ? What progress is being made each year in the effort to tackle such problems (Ibid. ) Evaluation as a management tool, also stands to trigger a desired self-steering process in the organisation. Here, the organisation is made to be focus on those objectives and long term goals it seeks to achieve. And through evaluation in the organisation learning practices, the organisation is spurred and triggered towards the attainment of these targets and any observed variance is adequately taken care of.
Also, evaluation helps to clarify the mutual expectations of partners and other interested parties. Outside the institution can turn out to be a learning process for a wider institutional environment, including agencies higher in the hierarchy, such as ministries and other partners” (Oksanen, 2005). Illustrating this, an evaluation of a research institute has offered the ministry concerned an opportunity to review the institute more thoroughly; its functioning, its position within the administrative field, and its role in the development of the sector in question.
In addition, some interviewees at the ministry level felt that institutional evaluations have succeeded in pointing out weaknesses, which would demand internal changes even within ministries. (Ibid. ) In the view of Williams (2005) evaluation is germane in the arriving at a common ground for the diverging groups in an organisation. Evaluation approaches generally seek to get to the core issues, and as a result often explore ‘undiscussibles’ and raises issues that expose deep division within the community it is investigating. Evaluation stands as a tool for persuasion in the organisational learning practices.
Here, evaluation offers general support of assurance in decision-making situation. Among decision – makers’ evaluation gives them a valued support in their decision-making. “Evaluation is seen as an important external ‘second opinion’, in relation to which decision-makers can reflect their own ideas. This ‘second opinion gives management the opportunity to assure itself that planned actions and strategic choices are also reasonable from an external point of view. “(Ibid. ). Evaluation is valuable for justifying and convincing others about the necessity of proposed decisions.
Within the organisation evaluation provides support tot he decision – makers in relation tot he staff. Here, the decision maker can not stand alone, but point out someone from the outside who has objectively assessed the situation and has arrived at a conclusion that such decision are inevitable to put aside. Evaluation also contributes to an organisational learning practice by positioning the organisation to have the willingness to improve on its observed results. When evaluation is carried out, if the result that the organisation gets is unfavourable, it tends to strive to improve upon this, so as to obtain a better result next time.
To Udell and Baker (1977), cited in Sexton, et al (1989), advantages of innovative evaluation to inventors, when their innovation and ideas are subject to it, includes; 1. A general idea of a commercial viability of their new product idea. 2. Input concerning potential problems likely to be encountered during the innovation process. 3. Unbiased opinions from individuals who have the expertise to evaluate a new product ideas or invention. 4. Pertinent information that will be useful in presenting the concept to others 5. Direction regarding additional information needed for a more thorough evaluation of the product.
6. Opportunity, based on the information provided, to make a more informed decision about whether to drop or proceed with the product. 7. Information that may help attracts investors. It is seen that these highlighted advantages of evaluation to innovative ideas are similar to those that an organisation derives when evaluation are linked up with the organisation learning practices. HINDRANCES TO ORGANISATION’S EVALUATION A major hindrance to effective evaluation is when the objectives and goals of an organisation are not clearly stated and straightforward and explicit.
It makes the evaluation of such goals and objective very difficult. This tends to hamper the results of the evaluation process. As the ALNAP annual review (2003) has it “The potential contribution of evaluation genres to learning is often hampered by a lack of clarity as to the purpose, the under-use of approaches and techniques likely to increase learning at the individual and team level and the under use of evaluation materials and case studies in training. According to Oksanen (2005), the most often mentioned weak points to evaluation includes:
1. Lack of time for evaluations which may lead to inaccuracies and superficiality in results; 2. Evaluators’ competencies and in particular, their insufficient knowledge of local circumstances. CONCLUSION From the write-up it is seen that evaluation plays a significant role in organisational learning practices, through evaluation the learning practice is made feasible and effective. This make the decisional aspect of the organisational practice to be generally supported and accepted in the attainment of set goals and objectives for the organisation.
Through evaluation, the organisation strengths and weaknesses are observed and corrective measures are better put in place to correct these weaknesses BIBLIOGRAPHY ALNAP Annual Review (2003), –Chapter Five. (www. alnap. org/AR2002/chapter5a. htm) (19th August2005) Argyris, Chris (1982) Reasoning Learning and Action: Individual and Organisational, San Franciso: Jossey-Bass Argyris Chris (1990), Overcoming Organisational Defences, Facilitating Organisation Learning; Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Argyris, Chris (1993, Knowledge for Action a Guide to Overcoming Barriers to Organisational Change.
San Francisco: Jossey Bass Argyris C. and Schon D. (1974), Theory in Practice Increasing Professional Effectiveness San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Argyris C. and Schon D. (1978), Organisational Learning: A theory of Action Perspective, Reading Mass: Addison Wesley Edmondson, A and Moingeon, B (1999) “Learning, Trust and Organisational Change” in M. Easterby-Smith, L. Aranjo and J. Burgoyne (eds. ) Organisational Learning and the Learning Organisation, London: Sage Fadeyi, R. M (1999), Management Principles and Practices, Lagos, Foresythe Media Ltd.
IFRA (2005), “Evaluation and Organisational Learning” (www. ifrc. org/docs/appeals/annual01/01790101. pdf) (20th August, 2005) Mande (2005), “Overcoming Organisational defences: Chris Argyris” (www. mande. co. uk/docs/chapter4. htm) (28 June, 2005. Oksanen, Juha (2005), “Does Evaluation Contribute to decision Making? ” (www. evaluationcanada. ca/distribution/200005_oksanen_juha. pdf. ) (19th August, 2005. Sexton, Donald L. et al (1989) “Innovation Evaluation Programs: Do they Help the Investors? “In Journals of Small Business Management Vol.
27, Issue 3. Smith, K. Mark (2001), “Chris Argyris: Theories of action, double-loop learning and organisational learning”, the encyclopaedia of informal education, (www. infed. org/thinkers/argyris. htm. ) (20th August, 2005). Usher, R and Bryant, I (1989) Adult Education as theory, Practice and Research, London: Routledge. Williams Bob (2005), “The contribution of Evaluation to Program and Orgnaisational Development- The use of’ Whole System’ Groups Processes”. (http://users. actrix. co. nz/bobwill/elg. doc) (19th August, 2005.