Thursday, April 2, 2009

Process Improvement for Nonprofits - Part 6: Real-World Testing

After an assessment, creative problem-solving and ample feedback, it is time to test the changes under actual conditions. Carefully select both the process changes you will test and the participants in the testing. You need staff who will give the changes a fair chance and also document anything they notice while employing the new methods.

Remind them of your common goals (“saving time on paperwork so we can help more callers,” e.g.) and make it clear that the new process they are testing has not been confirmed as perfect or necessarily the best, but deserves a good evaluation. You need honesty in the assessment to be confident in the results. Prepare a standardized method of recording comments and outputs to compare to the “old way” of doing things. Your baseline quantities of calls answered, cases opened or closed or fliers mailed will be useful as you find out whether the shortened processes really do speed up the flow of work. It may be helpful to set up a SurveyMonkey site to collect standardized data if your testing involves people in multiple locations and over a range of items.

Set a significant test period. Factor in the learning curve your new process will require. If significant, test for a longer period. If minor, a shorter test run will suffice.

Finally, be sure to share the results. No one likes to contribute to a survey and not see how it was used. It devalues their efforts and makes it harder next time to get fair feedback.

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