Accountability and Outcomes – the Penny Drops…

May 1, 2007 at 8:30 pm Leave a comment

In the past months I’ve had many discussions with project managers about evaluation where they clearly feel uncomfortable linking their objectives to outcomes – and now after reading a recent article in the Evaluation journal, the penny has dropped (i.e. I am able to link up the dots and understand a little more…).

In an article by John Mayne, “Challenges and Lessons in Implementing Results-Based Management”, he discusses the issue of accountability and outcomes:

“People are generally comfortable with being accountable for things they can control. Thus, managers can see themselves as being accountable for the outputs produced by the activities they control. When the focus turns to outcomes, they are considerably less comfortable, since the outcomes to be achieved are affected by many factors not under the control of the manager.”

And that’s it – a communications manager prefers to be accountable for the number of press releases s/he publishes and not the changes to an audiences knowledge or attitude, a training manager prefers to be accountable for the number of courses s/he organises and not the impact on an organisation’s efficency, etc.

So is there a solution? John Mayne speaks of a more sophisticated approach to accountability, notably to look at the extent to which a programme has influenced and contributed to the outcomes observed. And that leads us to the next question – how much influence is good enough?

Food for thought…you can read an earlier version of the article here (pdf).


Entry filed under: Evaluation methodology, General, Research & Studies.

Priorities for research in public relations Ambitious but Achievable

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