An evaluation plan is a roadmap to help organizations validate the impact of their work. In this past blog post, we describe our four-step evaluation process. Step 2 of this process involves creating or modifying data tools and systems. When establishing evaluation systems, it is important to create standard operating procedures or SOPs.
An SOP is a step by step procedure that outlines necessary processes within an organization. SOPs actualize your organization’s processes into actionable tasks in a structured and uniform format. They are used to make sure staff are following the same process when completing an organizational activity. SOPs establish consistency and accountability among staff and improve efficiency and quality.
When it comes to evaluation, SOPs help to ensure data collection is valid and reliable and also help you avoid data errors.They provide structure and guidance to staff who may not focus on evaluation and data on a daily basis. SOPs equip them to support your organization’s evaluation work and integrate it into their day-to-day responsibilities. SOPs also help to mitigate the effect that staff changes and transitions may have on your evaluation activities. By having SOPs in place, you can introduce new staff to your evaluation procedures early on in their onboarding and training and improve the continuity and sustainability of your evaluation work.
Last spring we worked with the Center for Leadership Development (CLD) on an evaluation project and created SOPs for all of their evaluation tools and procedures. We worked with them to align the SOPs to the structure of other organizational procedures which helped them to integrate the SOPs successfully and smoothly across all programs.
Here are four steps we completed with CLD that you can also use to get started with creating evaluation SOPs for your organization.
1. Create a list of the different procedures you want to document and systemize.
We recommend creating an SOP for all evaluation-related tools you utilize. These may include:
- Data collection tools (surveys, assessments, academic data/data share agreements, registration/enrollment forms, etc.)
- Databases and programs you use to store your data (Oracle, Apricot, etc.)
- Data analysis and visualization programs (Excel, Tableau, SPSS, etc.)
2. Create a template or format that makes sense for your organization.
We recommend that all of your SOPs include the following elements:
- Purpose: Overview of why to follow the procedure
- Responsibility: Indicate who is responsible for completing specific tasks outlined in the SOP; Make sure to indicate the JOB TITLE of the person responsible, rather than their name so there is no confusion in cases of staff turnover
- Instructions: List all steps and tasks to complete when following the procedure
- Timeline for completion: Indicate when to complete each task
- Administration/Materials: Include a list of any materials, attachments, and references that staff should use when completing the procedure
Here is an example of a general SOP template:
The SOPs for your data collection tools should include two distinct sections detailing the procedures for collecting and analyzing data. Both of those sections should include the elements listed above.
3. Draft SOPs or delegate their creation to staff
You do not need to create all of your evaluation SOPs at one time. Create a prioritized list/schedule of which SOPs are most important to create first. To make the drafting process more manageable, consider training multiple staff members to create SOPs using the template. Make sure these staff members are familiar with the evaluation tools and systems. One staff member should be responsible for reviewing and approving all the evaluation procedures to check for consistency in formatting and structure.
4. Train staff on following new SOPs
Once you create your evaluation SOPs, make sure they don’t just sit on a shelf! The SOPs need to be used and followed consistently by all relevant staff. Provide training and guidance for your staff on the new SOPs. Point out how the activities and tasks fit within their day-to-day responsibilities.
At Transform Consulting Group, we know the importance of demonstrating the impact of your work. Whether you are just now beginning to evaluate your program or you already have an established evaluation plan in place, we would be happy to help you create SOPs to strengthen the sustainability and effectiveness of your evaluation activities. Contact us today for more information!