Principles: Evaluation, Strategy and More

Over at our sister site (Censemaking), we are publishing a series on Principles-Focused Evaluation. The series is looking at the basic building blocks that underpin the approach and will describe how to use it.

We will be posting some additional materials here at a later date.

But before one starts out using principles, it’s essential to understand what they are and why they matter.

Principles in Practice

When we look at principles in practice we first need to look at the definition of the term.

As we can see from above, principles are guides for conduct. They are touchstones that can inform planning and action in the face of uncertainty. If we were sure about causes and consequences, we could rely on rules. When we are uncertain, principles will have to do.

Principles are also evaluable.

Michael Quinn Patton has riffed on this role of principles in his GUIDE Framework for Principles-focused Evaluation.

As Patton writes on Principles-Focused Evaluation,

Principles-focused evaluation examines (1) whether principles are clear, meaningful, and actionable, and if so, (2) whether they are actually being followed and, if so, (3) whether they are leading to desired results.  Principles are derived from experience, expertise, values, and research.

Principles, Values and Strategy

Principles reflect our values. Values are about what has meaning for us, what we invest in, and subsequently, what has value. That is why we can evaluate good principles.

The first step in developing principles is determining what you value.

The second step is determining your values. Values are the beliefs we hold that guide our actions and shape our identity.

Thirdly, connect the two; this is strategy.

Drawing on the GUIDE framework above, consider reflecting on what you value, your values, and how (or if) they are connected. We work with many organizations with a gap between their stated values and desires and their actions. Much of our work is on closing this gap with our clients. The reasons are often that we let our environment shape our actions without connecting them to values or value.

We find many clients do things with low value yet are a product of legacy systems in place to accomplish something else. By clarifying our values and determining what has value, we can change this by design.

This is what strategic design is all about.

So now you know why principles, strategy, and design are all related.

If this is something that you want help in doing, let’s talk. This is what we do.

Photo by Amrit Sangar on Unsplash

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