Seven Deadly Sins of Internal Assessment

Why Thriving Organizations Hire External Assessment Partners

Although many organizations use internal resources for evaluating their programs, products, and performance, relying solely on internal assessments can limit the usefulness of the data collected and lead to costly errors that can damage an organization's reputation.  In particular, internal assessments that do not at least partner with an external technical expert run the risk of committing one or more of seven deadly sins:

  1. Internal Bias - Also known as the “Ugly Baby Syndrome” - Does any parent really think their child is ugly? So it is with organizations that have spent time and money to develop a program, product, or personnel. It is hard to be objective in assessments of one’s own efforts. An external partner can ask the tough questions and objectively assess the worth or merit of products and processes.
  2. Lack of Credibility – Stakeholders may suspect results published by organizations that collect their own data.  External partners can provide legitimacy to results obtained because of their independent status.
  3. Lack of Expertise – Creating sophisticated measurement systems requires formal training in research and evaluation techniques.   Even basic assessments, like surveys or phone interviews, need to be crafted in such a way as to ensure validity of results.  External partners who possess specialized training in assessment methodologies can use their expertise to ensure that the assessment measures what it is supposed to measure.
  4. Insufficient Design – Because most internal assessment personnel do not have formal training in assessment methodologies and analysis techniques, they are less likely to create scientifically rigorous research designs that can withstand public scrutiny.  Expert external partners can assist organizations in crafting sophisticated and elegant designs that provide robust data and will answer all questions stakeholders and others may have.
  5. Overly Costly – Relying solely on internal resources, means that valuable time is taken away from these individuals' day-to-day jobs.  The steep learning curve (often associated with several trial and error approaches) coupled with the requirement that an organization pay benefits on these employees time usually results in expenses that are double or triple what it would cost for an external consultant. 
  6. Time Consuming – Because organizations do not readily have assessment tools available and because internal resources often lack the expertise in developing such tools, an internal assessment is often inefficient.  Inordinate amounts of time are spent on creating instruments, administering instruments, and analyzing the data.  An experienced external partner can usually conduct an assessment in half or even a third of the time.
  7. Tunnel Vision – Internal assessments often become so focused on what the organization desires outcomes to be, that they don't consider all aspects of what should be measured.  An external partner can be more sensitive to the bigger picture and can utilize comparative data from other organizations' performance to provide standards and benchmarking.

 

The Worldwide Institute for Research and Evaluation (WIRE) has partnered with over 200 organizations to provide critical external assessments that avoid these 7 deadly sins.  WIRE has worked in both the Educational and Corporate domains and provides services ranging from technical assistance to full-scale assessment efforts.  Additional details about WIRE and its services can be found at the links below: