Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises: XIII. Assessment in the Enterprise Cycle (Part Two)
Rather than always focusing on specific program activities, it is often valuable to focus on a specific program participant. Pick a “typical” program participant. In what activities did she engage? What did she miss? What didn’t she like? Why? One might even want to create a hypothetical participant who represents “normal” involvement in the program. A case history can be written that describes this hypothetical participant in the program. This case history can be much more interesting, and in some sense more “real” than dry statistics, though the case needs to be supported by statistics to ensure that this typical person is, in fact, typical.
Documentation of Program
The most straightforward type of evaluation is documentation. When someone asks what has happened in a program or whether a program has been successful, the employees can present the inquirer with evidence of program activity and accomplishment. Program assessments that do not include some documentation run the risk of appearing sterile or contrived. One reads descriptions of a program and one even reviews the tables of statistics concerning program outcomes but never sees “real” evidence of the program’s existence. An appreciative evaluation always provides this real evidence. It discovers the footprints left by a program unit and appreciates the meaning of these footprints.
Some program evaluators even suggest that we are eventually led in program documentation to a “goal-free” evaluation (Patton, 1990, pp. 115-117; Scriven, 1991, pp. 1980-182; Worthen et al, 1997, pp. 94-95). The documents speak for themselves and there is little need for an often biasing and limiting set of goals by which and through which an evaluator observes a specific program. Program documents often reveal much more about a program than is identified in a set of goals. Through the documents, one sees how a program is actually “living,” and what emanates from the program that may or may not conform to its pre-specified goals.
Often after a program has been developed, someone will collect all the documents that have been accumulating during the course of a program. This may include minutes from major meetings, important memos and letters, reports, formal and informal communications about specific program activities or products, productions of the program, audio or video recordings of specific program activities, and so forth. These documents are usually stored in some file cabinet for some vaguely defined use in the future. Often one suspects that the documents are stored to avoid the arduous task of sifting through them and throwing away the old, useless ones. Unfortunately, archives frequently are not used at a later date. As a result, the collection and storage of documents is rarely a rewarding or justifiable procedure in program evaluation.