Performance Practice Introduction: Internal Monitoring

Introduction: Internal Monitoring

Performance Practice Learning Module

Does your organization’s internal data help you make good management decisions?

Meaningful and high-quality data—along with the right reports when you need them—are necessary to continuous learning and improvement.

This learning module is one of seven Performance Practice modules that help you and your team reflect on how your organization’s behaviors and practices align with the principles of high performance. Review the questions below—and share them with your colleagues—for an introduction to the principles and practices of internal monitoring for continuous improvement.

What can you learn about internal monitoring by discussing these topics?

Do your board, management, and staff work together to establish clear metrics, tightly aligned with the results you want to achieve, for each program and for the organization as a whole?

  • Has your organization determined what internal measurements you need to continuously improve delivery of programs and confirm whether you’re on track to achieve your intended results?
  • Have your management and staff identified what information you need for analysis of long-term patterns, trends, and correlations. (For example, how have the numbers served, outcomes, and cost per outcome changed over the past 24 months?)

Do your management and staff produce frequent reports on how well the organization is implementing its programs and strategies? Do management and staff use these reports to chart course corrections and make operational and programmatic improvements on an ongoing basis?

  • Do your organization’s data systems provide reports to help you gauge organizational and program effectiveness and drive improvements across all facets of your organization?
  • Does your organization have staff responsible for your data systems’ implementation and maintenance, including these responsibilities:
    • provide ongoing training?
    • support staff who have difficulties entering or accessing data?
    • develop reports that show if the organization is achieving intended results?
    • analyze data in an ongoing way for quality assurance?
    • ensure data is accurate and entered in a timely manner?
    • ensure that the right people have the right information at the right time in the right form?
    • plan system enhancements?

Do your management and staff make the collection, analysis, and use of data part of the organization’s DNA? Do you ensure that people throughout the organization understand the key metrics? And do you invest in helping staff gain comfort in working with data as a natural part of their job?

  • Does your organization’s staff—from the front lines to managers and executives—have access to data that help them do their jobs effectively on an everyday basis?
  • Does your organization’s leadership regularly share program and overall organization results with staff and board? Do they allow time for questions, celebrating successes, and learning from failures?

Do your management and staff avoid collecting excessive information? Do you focus on collecting information that is relevant for determining how well you’re achieving the desired results, understanding what mix of efforts is critical to achieving those results, and continuously improving your results over time? Ideally, applying this information makes staff members’ jobs easier and more effective, rather than adding to their burden.

  • Does your organization periodically assess whether the information you collect, analyze, and use continues to have high value and relevance? What are specific examples when you added or deleted metrics based on what you learned?
  • When possible, does your organization engage in constructive dialogue with funders about their data requirements to ensure that the data you collect are meaningful to both your organization and the funder?

Do your board, management, and staff draw extensively on lessons from organizational assessments and evaluations of comparable programs serving similar causes or populations?

  • Does your organization invest in an evaluation and learning function to stay abreast of research and assessments/evaluations of similar programs? Do you use staff meetings, workshops, and other communication channels to share relevant findings?
  • Does your organization periodically bring in outside experts to brief your management and staff on the latest discoveries, trends in the field, and areas where you can improve?
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