An assessment is a process in which you determine the amount, value, quality and importance of something based on perceptions, observations or collected data.
The process can also include recommendations about how to go forward.
It only makes sense to start preparing an assessment if the organization and its units are ready to conduct the process. This is the case when:
- A convincing reason exists for conducting the assessment.
- Sufficient resources will be made available.
- The leadership supports the assessment process.
- The organizational culture accepts proposals for change from different hierarchical levels.
- Staff member are willing to work together and share knowledge.
Once you have established that the organization is ready to conduct an assessment, you can start with the preparatory work. Graphic 1 shows the main steps involved.
Graphic 1: Preparing an assessment
Step 1: Decide what the assessment is supposed to achieve.
The assessment design will depend on its purpose. It will differ if you want to
- Prepare a decision about the future of a development program.
- Develop an action plan directed at improving organizational performance.
- Prove your organization´s accountability.
- Determine your current organizational sustainability.
- Assess whether you have good practices in place in your Financial Department.
- Understand why your customers are not satisfied with products and services.
Step 2: Decide which issues the assessment has to address.
Example 1: Future of a current development program
- Does the program receive the desired support by office staff?
- Are the benefits the same in all communities where the project is implemented?
- Are we implementing the program efficiently and effectively?
- Who is benefiting and to what extent from the program?
Example 2: Improving organizational performance
- Is our Performance management system based on good practices?
- What are the key performance problems?
- What are the causes for underperformance?
- Are we meeting legal and voluntary performance standards?
- How does our performance compare to that of other organizations?
Example 3: Determining your organization´s sustainability
- How will it impact us?
- What is the probability that a change will happen?
- Would a future change of a critical component of the external environment happen suddenly or gradually?
- When might happen in the future in the external environment?
- What are the internal and external causes of these problems?
- What are the key current organizational problems?
Step 3: Decide how far you will make use of self-assessment tools.
- Which self-assessment tools are available?
- Are they suitable to answer my questions?
- Can we adapt some elements and integrate them into our self-designed assessment?
Step 4: Decide who will participate in the assessment
You will have to decide about the participants depending on factors like the type of the assessment, its scope, available knowledge, skills and resources (time, money) as well as your organizational structure.
Among the participants in one or another stage of the assessment process could be:
- Executive directors.
- Board members.
- Administrative staff.
- Staff working on programs.
- Representatives of communities served by the NGO.
- Donors and grant-makers.
- Important partners of the organization.
- Governmental authorities on different administrative levels.
- External experts.
In case that you found a suitable self-assessment tool you will be now ready to start your assessment process. The purpose and structure of assessment processes is discussed here.
This website also provides an introduction to a number of important types of assessments.
- Organizational assessments
- Performance assessments
- Capacity assessments
- Financial viability assessments
- Risk assessments
- Needs assessments
- Impact assessments
- Compliance assessments
- Accountability assessments
- Adaptability assessments
In case you came to the conclusion that existing self-assessment tools are insufficient or cannot help you at all, you will have to design your own assessment.