Everyone wants a communications team that embraces evaluation, but the reality is that such a model is the exception, rather than the rule. Evaluation doesn’t just involve specific activities – it requires intentionally setting up a supportive culture.
Here are some suggestions:
- Build psychological safety: If we want to get serious about evaluating, it has to be ok to experiment and fail. An evaluation-positive team culture is one that tolerates and ideally celebrates reporting on findings that are disappointing. The key is to create a shared commitment to acting on poor results as part of continuous learning and improvement. A little fun here can go a long way: for example, the Government of Canada’s communications community hosts regular “Beer and Blunders” events where executives share stories of their past failures and what they learned from the experiences. This sends a powerful signal among leaders which helps create a sense of psychological safety that normalizes the occasional flunk but stresses the value of learning from failure.
- Consider unintended consequences: It’s important to be attentive to the gravitational force of evaluation, which can sometimes have negative consequences. As the saying goes, “you are what you measure” and there is a risk that that can be taken too far. For example, a team might over-rotate to the key indicator of employee satisfaction with communication products and start to produce only light, entertaining content to the detriment of other strategic considerations such as engagement and alignment.
- Create social proof: The most powerful way to shift a team toward new behaviours is to create social proof – that is, demonstrate the value and relevance of the new approach so that it spreads organically among peers. You can contribute to social proof by taking the time to showcase success stories of how evaluation was integrated into projects and contributed to meaningful results.