February 13, 2015

Observe versus evaluate versus analyze

Analyze THIS or THAT 

Seth Godin is the reason I decided to start a blog. After about two or three years of reading his work every day, I decided I could do this myself, so I started Rick's Writing Again. I don't post nearly as often as I would like, but I am writing more than I do when I go into my non–writing eras. Godin has written many thought–provoking ideas that resonate with me. One that I especially enjoy is called, "How to give feedback." It makes this reader think about the idea of giving my opinion of what I see against giving an analysis of what I've seen. 

What I want instead of your opinion is your analysis. It does me no good to hear you say, "I'd never pick that box up." You can add a great deal of value, though, if you say, "The last three products that succeeded were priced under $30. Is there a reason you want to price this at $31?" Or, "We analyzed this market last year, and we don't believe there's enough room for us to compete. Take a look at this spreadsheet." Or even, "That font seems hard to read. Is there a way to do a quick test to see if a different font works better for our audience?" (Godin, July 22, 2006)
We can all think back to our earliest years of "evaluating" personnel and what we have since learned. I have had the honor of evaluating many great people during the past 20 years. I've been able to establish a rapport at most times and be able to give honest feedback. I don't think, though, that in the early days I was much good at analyzing after an observation that led to an evaluation. I think in the discussion following observations, I always tried to get my people to analyze WHAT I SAW but I didn't ANALYZE WHAT I SAW for THEM. 

I spent a great amount of time probing during post–observation discussions, asking lots of questions to try to find out more about the lesson, unit, or year plan. Often, I encourage people to think "long" and not focus only on one snapshot, which is why I believe that walkthroughs are important, as well. 
If you're asked to comment on a first-draft proposal that will eventually wind its way to the chairman's office, this is not the time to point out that "alot" is two words, not one. Copyediting the document is best done just once, at the end, by a professional. While it may feel as if you're contributing something by making comments about currently trivial details, you're not. Instead, try to figure out what sort of feedback will have the most positive effect on the final outcome, and contribute it now. (ibid; bold text emphasized by Rick) 
I highlight the previous only to bring us around to the idea that we focus on the wrong — perhaps important, but wrong — ideas from what we observe. Often, that wrong "focal point" is because it's the low–hanging fruit, the easy thing to talk about. Leaders everywhere have to become more willing to discuss the OTHER STUFF — the things that can make a difference. Like what — like whatever it would take just a little more time to ANALYZE and DISCUSS which will lead to better performance and, ultimately, CHANGE. When there is no risk, there often is no reward.

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