Category Archives: Top Posts

PRACTICE THE DOING GOOD

In the last few months, I enrolled coincidentally and luckily to two free online courses, given by Coursera‘s top professors. One of them was “Effective Altruism” by Dr. Peter Singer, and the other was “A life of happiness and fulfillment“, by Dr. Raj Raghunathan. Both courses, in this way or another, are dealing with important questions of meaning and significance, and discuss ways to improve what we are doing in our day-to-day life, in order to be better personalities.
I also, somehow, found myself watching with my kids the fabulous, amusing, and lovely movie by Julie Andrews, called “The sound of music“…

As a result of the three, I watched several interviews with Andrews after her voice loss; I bought Singer’s new book “The most good you can do“, and talked to friends about happiness and the ways we ruin our happiness by our own very hands (I still have a bunch of recommended reading to complete in the next 20 years…).
Then, I have discovered a link between all of the ideas, a shiny bright thought came into my mind. In fact, it is not that hard to do good, it is not that impossible to be happy even if we are not that achieving and successful in terms of what we think we should have been achieving so far.

The major point of Singer’s message is the willingness to do good with your money or time. It is not just giving your spare money or time, but doing it wisely and efficiently. Think about what you are planning to give, to whom, why to do it, and what evidence are exist in order to support your choice of giving. According to Singer, giving should be done by everyone who has something spare (time or money), and the leading principle is the choice of the best cause.

Andrew’s message, conveyed in many interviews and talks, is more than inspiring in my opinion. She repeatedly says she enjoys the most of her ability of giving joy and happiness to kids, families, and adults who watch her films and shows. She had a rule to sing only happy songs, never take the negative side, and commit to roles she felt may bring lots of fun and happiness to her audience. Even after the loss of her voice, due to a surgery failure, which was a complete shock to her and the rest of the world, she still found a way to do the best she knows, and started to write children’s books, with great messages of self-acceptance, and finding fun in each of every moment.

Last but not least is Raghunathan’s lessons for a happy life. He insist we can all find happiness in very simple ways, as long as we practice them. He counts several steps to follow (are described here very briefly). First, get rid of our need for superiority (what a burden it is, indeed!); Second, express gratitude to people who made our life better (if you think about it – there are numerous of them); Third, think and write what is happiness for us in a short sentence or very few words (for example: joy, abundance), and what makes us feel happy (for example: giving to others); Forth and trivial – eat, move, and sleep well. Fifth, give to others, as act of generosity. Sharing is caring, etc.; Sixth, and the most important – practice all of the above on a daily basis.

When combining the three inspiring, fascinating, engaging messages, the only question which comes to mind is “Ok. what do I do next?”
The answer is PRACTICE THE GOOD. Practice your thinking of effective giving, and do it. Practice your viewing and common mistakes of happiness, and focus on the bright sides. As a result, you will start to experience a great fulfilling and happy life, and eventually and hopefully these great positive feelings will last and enlighten yours and others’ life.

Share the knowledge...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookEmail this to someonePrint this page

Regression to the Mean and its Implications on Program Evaluation

Background and Problem Identification

Most of the social / educational program are evaluated this way or another, and on this post I would like to focus on repeated measures of the same group of participants or individuals, as opposed to different groups comparisons or tests.

In many occasions we want to learn what is the impact of an intervention on attitudes, perceptions, and behavior; and by this we want to isolate the impact of the specific intervention, hence the program, and see how it changed the  attitudes, perceptions,  behavior, or a specific situation; in order to infer whether the intervention was effective or not.

Many of us will conduct t-test or repeated measures test. Another common way to  investigate those questions is using a linear regression model; and by this try to predict the change on our dependent variable by a series of controlled variables. However, here comes the “catch” –

Regression to the mean (RTM) is a statistical phenomenon that can make natural variation in repeated data look like real change. It happens when unusually large or small measurements tend to be followed by measurements that are closer to the mean.”
( Barnett et al., 2005)

The problem (RTM) may occur whether we measure an individual or a group, due to the random error (within-subject variance and between-subject variance).

A similar problem is identified as “a standard error of measurement (SEM), which refers to the standard deviation of an individual’s observed scores from repeated administrations of a test (or parallel forms of a test) under identical conditions”
(Koizumi et al., 2015)

The problem: variations in data sometimes DO NOT reflect a real change, but a correction of a previous random error.

 

In other words, we jump too fast to define a correlation as a causation, without checking carefully it really is!

Indeed, research conducted to investigate these measurement errors in social implications shows that many changes are accounted for RTM or SEM, and do not reflect a real change (Marsden amd Torgerson, 2012; Koizumi et al., 2015).

Ready to Think Regression to the Mean

Solutions and Food for Thoughts:

Be careful when you aim to predict something. Do not assume a vacuum. On the contrary, plan the study cautiously and take into account alternative explanations, and different routes for interpretation. In fact, there is some good advise on how to reduce the chance your study’s results will be affected by natural errors such as RTM.

Research Design:

  • assign participant randomly for all groups
  • make sure groups are the same size
  • always include a control group
  • control for alternative variables
  • use tools with high reliability
  • control for background variables and context

Data Collection and Analysis:

  • conduct more than one pretest
  • collect two or more baseline data
  • control for baseline average / st. dev. by adding the group mean to the equation (either on regression or Ancova)

(Koizumi et al., 2015; Bonate, 2000; Marsden and Torgerson, 2012)

 

Implications on Program Evaluation

Many social and education program seek to change an attitude or perception, and assist participants in gaining knowledge of certain areas (such as financial literacy or second language).

Evaluation for these program usually focuses on perception measurement using a  before-after design. Most of the time, RTS is not taken into account, and therefore interpretation of  program impact may be wrong. Needless to say, designs without a “before” measurement worth NOTHING in terms of explaining program impact or change. In addition, there is a second aspect to emphasize which is the presence of a control group. Very often it is very difficult to compose a group of participants just for the sake of evaluation; however you should take into account that if you do not do it, you will never be able to correctly assess neither a baseline nor a change in your group of study.

In short: be cautious, plan and conduct evaluation carefully, when bearing in mind that a change in attitudes, perception, behaviour or knowledge, can be explained by a variety of explanations, that may be slightly different than the intervention you evaluate.

 

***

Subscribe if you liked (:

…and feel free to contact me regarding program evaluation consulting projects

***

References:

Barnett, A.G., Van der Pols, L., Dobson, A. (2005). Regression to the mean: what it is and how to deal with it. Int. J. Epidemiol. , 34 (1):215-220.

Bonate, P. L. (2000). Analysis of pretest–posttest designs. Boca Raton, FL.

Guisasola, J., Solbes, J., José-Ignacio, B., Maite, M., Antonio, M. (2009). Students’ Understanding of the Special Theory of Relativity and Design for a Guided Visit to a Science Museum. In: International Journal of Science Education 31(15), 2085-2104

Koizumi, R., In’nami, Y., Azuma, J., Asano, K., Agawa, T., Eberl, D. (2015). Assessing L2 proficiency growth: Considering regression to the mean and the standard error of difference. Shiken, 19(1).

Marsden, E., Torgerson, C. J. (2012). Single group, pre- and post-test research designs: Some methodological concerns. Oxford Review of Education, 38, 583–616.

 

Share the knowledge...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookEmail this to someonePrint this page

4 Questions to Answer Yourself Before You Measure Outcomes

Hello friends, I am now writing for over 6 months, and every time I publish something I feel that I somehow helped the world (: So thank you for reading my comments.

Today I’d like to focus on a very sensitive issue – outcomes measurement. Yeah! you need to measure. If you make money out of your activity – you may want to know what was the impact in order to maintain and retain clients; If you do nonprofit you may want to know what was the impact of your services, and how you can grow.

I will make my points simple and clear:

1. Feelings are not true. They are misleading. Never trust your senses or impressions. Measurement does not work this way, and this is why you want to employ it. Facts are usually different than what we tend to think… a smart women quoted me a very strong message 10 years ago:”without data you are just another person with an opinion”. This is still so true.

2. Your boss/es are not interested in statistics and data, they just want the work to be impactful. Really?! how are you going to know it? Write down your goals, translate into objectives, and have these objectives measured. Be the one who brings rational and data to the table, be the one to help the organization grow.

Nonprofits consulting - ready to think

3. You must have some sort of education with regard to measurement and evaluation. If you do not have, you are having very high possibilities to be mistaken. The most problematic trajectories are: questionnaires design and data analysis. I have seen thousands of questionnaires in my life so far, almost each one of them contained a critical mistake, which turns the whole business to be useless. So, bear in mind, neither your MBA nor MSW qualified you to write questionnaires and interpret data. Use professional advice.

4. What are you planning to do with the data? make sure there is a good reason to collect data and evaluate. Once you have the data, make the best out of it. Translate it into strategic steps and apply it. Then, recheck your performance and adjust accordingly.

Thank you for thinking and reading! On the next post I will share an example for a measurable impact questionnaire I created, for free use. Please stay tuned and subscribe (:

 

 

Share the knowledge...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookEmail this to someonePrint this page

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Donate to Nonprofit Organizations

The world is complicated, there are so many causes to donate money to, and your spare time and / or money to donate are limited. The questions of how to give, to whom, and why, are getting an increasing attention due to the growing needs on the one hand, and a shrinking amount of donated money and time on the other hand.

Nevertheless, the issue of giving has not got enough thinking and discussion so far, in my opinion, although it is only reasonable to assume that ones will want to know what profit their money can generate. Even in terms of the not for profit sector, it is still true and plausible to expect high efficiency, effectiveness, and return on investment.

Therefore, I have developed a simple Four Questions Test in order to assist donors in decision making regarding donating their time or money.

Question # 1:
What does the organization do?
A clear answer is required here. Neither vision nor mission statement are needed here.
The very simple answer is what is done by the organization.
Want three clear examples? Here You Go.

Question # 2:
Is it the most  important cause you can donate to?
The answer to this question is a bit tricky, and requires framing an opinion by asking yourself what is your definition of the best cause(s) to give to. The basic assumption is that you want to help as many as you can, which means you want to make the best out of your investment. Think about it and develop your view. You may find This Inspiring Book helpful. Although the author claims that poverty alleviation should be number one priority for everyone of us, I still find this book very helpful in shaping your mind in regard to finding the cause that close to your preferences of helping others.

 

Philanthropy

Question # 3:
What are the organization’s overhead costs?
Not a fancy question to ask, but you deserve an answer. As a general rule, you may expect no more than 15% overhead costs. More than this percentage, or worse – no information in this regard raise a question mark. A big one. Bear in mind, your money is limited, and you want to generate the higher profit possible. Assuming that – it is your duty to do your research and find out if the overhead costs are within the range. (And a personal note, I do not believe in crazy fundraising costs either, whether they are conveniently calculated out of the overhead costs or not! 20% or more of fundraising costs seem unacceptable to me, because it basically says that you cut 20 cents out of each dollar you give. You can do better with you money for sure.)

Question # 4:
What is the Return on Investment?
This term has countless definitions, but only one bottom line – what is the percentage of the generated profit in the project? Clear answer is required here. How much your dollars worth within the project/organization?! The ratio between investment and its return is very easy to catch. You should ask and get this information from the organization/s you wish to support. Any ratio above 1:1.5 is considered good profit in my opinion, because it is basically reflects 150% profit, and this is a clear indicator of doing good with your money, and making it worth more. The same process you do with your for profit investments applies here as well. (And another personal note here… I do not buy excuses in this issue. Every organization has the duty to measure, evaluate, and research itself on an ongoing basis, and part of it, is getting to know the organization’s services/activities’ impact in terms of dollars.)

Now, take a pen and paper and answer the questions.
If you do not know the answers – research. Do it diligently, because you want the best profit out of your money.
If an organization you consider to support does not provide with the information – ask to get it.
If an organization does not have the information – reconsider your intentions. You will not know where the money goes, what is done, and what is your return, so better to think twice, and research better options within your fields of interest.

Ready to think?! Go ahead and do the best you can.

****
Some clarification notes (in response to many emails and comments I have received):

1. Every donor follow their heart. I am not trying to convince anyone to choose any cause which is not their focus of giving. Do what you think is right.

2. Overhead costs is not a synonym of salaries. It includes rent and other costs… and yes in many cases there are too high costs of fundraising. It seems unreasonable to me to spend only 60-50% of donors money on the mission (assuming this mission really happens). However, there are many cases such as a small organization, starting-up a new project, or increasing of fundraising effort in which higher costs are acceptable. I give you food for thoughts, and you do the math.

(….And by the way, let’s phrase it a bit differently please… assuming that it is impossible to have 15% overhead costs and only 30% or so is a relevant expectation, plus every organization that tells you they have less than 30% overhead simply “plays with the numbers”… just makes the problem worse!!! No one wants to show high overhead costs, right?! so if they say they have 40% fundraising costs (or overhead), you may derive the inevitable conclusion – they spend much more than this amount. So, where does donors money go?!)

3. Salaries – I am a big believer of decent salaries, and will never support anyone who thinks that the sector’s workers need to sacrifice themselves because they help others. BUT if you chose to help others do not find excuses why you deserve the largest car and a crazily high 6 figures salary. It is not fair for your donors, and it is not fair for your employees; and it is bad to our world to have people who think they are the only talented people to bless earth, and the world owe them back.

4. Reading the comments I have received proved me something I already new. I am a millennial.  This is it (:

5. Cyber-bullying, even with a fake cover of legitimate discussion, is disgusting and very harmful. Think twice before you shoot someone just because you disagree with them. (By the way the impression about your style of talking to others does not do good to you either… even if my ESL is not perfect, I bet you understand perfectly everything I write. I am also kinda sure my first language level is far better than the first language of many educated and smart commenters).

6. Very nice examples of organizations that use donor’s money efficiently (and there are many more, Find them and support them):
UNICEF
Plan Canada
United Way

7. A great article you may consider to read, and may change your way of thinking.

8. Do not forget why you are here – do good, do good, the your best to do good!

Share the knowledge...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookEmail this to someonePrint this page

Three Types of Great Managers Who Inspire Me

Well, how to phrase it? Got to know several managers, and cannot cease myself from writing about them, and today I focus only on  good and successful managers, who you want to be or at least have them in your team. I think I will call them leaders (-:

* The Smart And Facilitator: this is my favorite type. I know very few managers who are very experienced, very sharp, very smart, and on the same time give credit to others, like professionals to be part of their teams, and promote the ones who are doing, not the ones who are talking.
Want to be this type?
Learn your field and master it, collect a team of outcomes people, not input people, determine your goals and objectives often, let your team express their professional opinion, and lead the organization that way. Get rid of unnecessary.
From my experience, this type is very rare and very rich…

* The Entrepreneur And That’s It: I like these people, I actually love them. Their passion, their enthusiasm, their belief, and above all – their ability to make their dream come true. They have two major advantages: they know to dream and they know to find the right team to bring it to life.
Want to be this type?
I think it is mainly a talent, they got a talent to dream and drive themselves and others to pursue it. However, I hope to encourage you – everyone of us is a little entrepreneur, why am I so sure?! show me one person on this planet who never had a successful idea, just one tiny thing they wanted to do and did.
I never considered myself as entrepreneur but my decision to start a blog got me loyal readership within couple of weeks! I still do not consider myself that type, because I am much more a person of consulting and managing existing bodies than starting-up, but it is nice to know that I can also start-up an idea (-; …

ready to think - management consulting

* The Innovative Out-Of-The-Box And Still Gentle: I have a soft spot in my heart for these people. They think differently than others, and this is why they bring huge organizational advantage with them everywhere they go. They will ever be successful. Those talented human beings are usually aware that the common man/woman will be terrified or at least completely disagree with their opinion, so they generously let everyone in their team a trial and error. The end is pretty clear – they are right, everyone else is wrong… Anyway, I am not trying to say that they know everything, they kinda took also some skills from the smart and facilitator, but their conclusions are somehow unexpected.
Want to be this type?
I think you gotta be born special, if you see a kid who acts weirdly, but somehow ingeniously , that is probably the adult I am talking about. Yet, if you cannot be(at) them – join them – just try to find this type of person to be in your team.

In short: be smart, be cooperative, build your team, and respect knowledge. 

Share the knowledge...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookEmail this to someonePrint this page

Everyone uses SMART goals, and you?!

I know – this is almost boring. Actually it is boring, why do I try to embellish reality?!
You have heard over thousands times that goals need to be S.M.A.R.T., and you are tired of it. You are tired because you need a reason to believe that it is going to help.
I used to feel frustrated when meeting with managers who do not like the idea of a work-plan, or do not find the time to do that, or whatever… But you know what?! that is why I started this blog, I wanted to write my thoughts and insights so I can express my enjoyment and belief that these processes really work and benefit organizations. Writing a work-plan may be a real fun, as long as you understand why you do it, and HOW to do it. I promise to do my best and explain the basics as well as the advanced, so if you are ready to think – we go on it, together, right now (-:

2014-09-28 11.21.45

Let’s firstly start with two vital facts:

As a consequence, you must be able to connect these two, and be able to measure, define, criticize, and change your goals and plans.
So, how do you set goals and objectives? Pretty simple actually. We need to clearly split three elementary parts of a work-plan:

  • The vision
  • The goals
  • The objectives

The vision is the wish, the large picture, the general direction, the utopia. The vision is usually articulated by senior executives, mainly board of directors members, and from my experience visions are usually good, and often very impressive. The vision typically includes one to two very meaningful sentences, where every word worth its weight in gold, or at least supposed to. I certainly agree that vision phrasing may take a while, however I am not that convinced it should take forever, and completely disagree with “no vision yet” or a “dead-end” circumstances and excuses. I am very sharp at this point because I see no logic in doing your job when you do not know where to go, and what is the purpose; or even worse – when your employees are lost. (let me put something here – no, you do not work just to earn your salary or remain employed). So, in short – message #1 is: have your vision handy.

Once we are done (if you are not – I promise to write soon on how to write a vision effectively and efficiently, so stay tuned…), and we have our vision – we need to break the vision to small pieces, the goals. Not too small, let’s say up to seven, and the most safe is something between 3-5. I know that there are managers who like the details, or feel that every word needs to get strong attention, or any other persuasive explanation – I suggest you to take it as an exercise – try to focus on 3-5 most important messages from the vision. Why? because you plainly want to do it, and hold it in front of you. Another helpful tip is to extract 3-5 single words that describe the vision the most.

In order to keep yourself in truck – bear in mind, this should take no more than 3-6 meetings with your relevant team, as long as everyone takes notes  independently, and do their homework. (however large organization may stretch it to a process, but still no more than 10 meetings with all of the relevant people are needed).
I suggest the following structure: meeting #1: overall view and open discussion regarding the most important messages from the vision; take notes, do your homework and conference back in meeting #2: the most important messages analysis – you should have a list to narrow. The final product is the 3-5 “raw” goals. This stage may take more than one meeting, but in my opinion and based on my experience – the efficient organizations will benefit the most… In meeting #3 the focus is on phrasing the goals. As I said at the beginning – this is not the SMART stage, we will have it later on. For now you need to just phrase 3-5 full, but short, sentences that express the vision and call for action. In short – message #2: write your goals shortly and clearly, in light of the vision.

2014-09-29 11.44.22

I was trying to think of example that will facilitate my explanation above in a friendly way, and that is why I chose a corny one – Coca-Cola. This document shows Coca-Cola’s 2020 vision, and I recommend you to take a glance especially at the left side – 2020 mission (Vision here), our vision (Words here) , our goals (Goals here). I am not 100% fan of their structure, but I think it gives a clear idea for managers who want to pursue planned processes.

In short:
> Vision: the big picture, usually contains a very small number of meaningful sentences.
> (Words/Raw goals: the fractions of the vision, the words that describe the vision)
> Goals: the actions needed to be taken in order to practice the theory

Part #2 of this article will be covering the connection between goals and objectives, an improved SMART model, and a wrap up of my arguments re vision-goals-objectives.

P.S. I am more than sorry for not entertaining you today with a must watch movie… I could not trace a relevant one in my mind – but will be happy to get your ideas, please share them in comments or email. In the meantime live happily.

 

Share the knowledge...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookEmail this to someonePrint this page

He was coherently focusing on his goal, and you?!

Firstly, I would like to thank you my readers! I am more than delighted to see the stats growing every day, and as you remember I am numbers fan… so imagine how happy I am (-:
Secondly, since I have promised last time that I will be talking today re sticking on your goal, be sure – I will do it here and now. Ready to think? Let’s start.

Before I start shooting my arguments, please have a peek at Liam Neeson (I recommend you to watch the whole movie if you haven’t done this yet). The story, in short, deals with “a retired CIA agent travels across Europe and relies on his old skills to save his estranged daughter, who has been kidnapped while on a trip to Paris”. I would like to extract and focus on his techniques: He analysed the situation, targeted the goal, stuck to it, paid costs in order to reach it, and finally kept his promise.

Getting back to our management situation, the beginning seems easy to most of us – just think what you want to do, and you are all set; another way to do it is to write something – yes, work on it, conference relevant people, write a draft and then articulate a final work plan. However, please be aware, at this very early point things are starting to struggle, because you (and your team and/or managers) are deeply convinced that the goal is well known and absorbed, and you may all go rest on your laurels.

Please pay attention to mistake #1: you forget what you have decided, because you did not document it, or because you absently stored it in an abandoned storage site.
A worse version is to actually see it in front of you every day, but let it gather some dust on the shelf, because it mistakenly perceived easy to think freshly every day… The worst option, which you will be surprised to know that there are many people who love to choose, is to see it, remember it, but intentionally ignore it. When I ask managers why they do it, they simply say – I do not believe in plans; I know my goals; I don’t need reminders; I have significantly better ideas; I have no time for reading it, and let’s not forget the best excuse: I am focusing on the “doing”…

Well, my friends, this is mistake #2: you definitely do not remember your goals and plans. No one does. That is why you wrote it. You have a great tool, the plan or the paper with your goal written on it, use it. Read it every time you feel unconfident or search for routes. Promise you – it helps, a lot! Bear in mind, a written plan is very often better than a random idea, as great as it is. Not to mention the time consuming aspect… you go back to your written plan – you also save your expensive time!
I can assure you, there are people who will not like your strong-minded attitude of being planned, but sooner or later they will agree with your paradigm, because the results will be there load and clear.

In order to write your goal in a usable way for future examination and development – you should phrase it correctly, what do I mean by that?! Please follow my next post.

In short: keep calm and trust your written plan.

P.S. If you wish to continue reading in this topic, please consider reviewing this article on how to set goals in work plan.

Share the knowledge...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on FacebookEmail this to someonePrint this page