After a 15 year career as a consultant, I’ve seen how some organisations get exceptional value from research and evaluation projects. I’ve also seen Directors and Managers who just aren’t ready to embrace it.
Here are the five readiness factors:
Successfully project-managing a research project takes time. At Patternmakers we insist our clients appoint a project manager to shepherd projects from kick-off to completion and implementation. It’s best that the project manager sets aside a half day each week through the duration of the project. This means they can coordinate meetings, provide feedback on deliverables, and help communicate the right messages about the project to stakeholders.
At its essence, research is about asking questions, and seeking robust evidence to answer them with accuracy. Evaluation is all of those things, plus making a judgment or drawing a conclusion at the end of it. One of my mentors, Professor Roberta Ryan, taught me early in my evaluation career that if you already know the answer, it’s not actually research.
We’re looking to work with people that are thirsty for new insight, that don’t know it all already, and they are ready to open their minds to discovering new insights and learning new ideas. This is where the magic happens.
I believe that those who openly share their learnings with others are leaders. It can be scary to put our hands up and tell others about things that didn’t work. But for our organisations to progress, we need to cultivate a culture of openness, learning and reflection. I believe that every program manager and director needs a ‘critical friend’, who can tell it to you straight, while practicing deep empathy.
At Patternmakers we’re honoured to play that role for our clients and partners - and we find it incredibly rewarding.
If you think it’s about collecting data, you’ve missed the point. Research isn’t really about the data, it isn’t even about analysis or findings. The value comes from identifying actionable insight - and implementing it. This requires enormous commitment. It also delivers enormous value. That’s why our projects don’t end with a report on key findings. We work with our clients to identify opportunities, prioritise the most important actions and develop implementation plans. We also circle back to make sure it rolls out, and reflect on the impact, which to be honest are often extraordinary. But it starts with commitment to continuous improvement.
There’s a reason Patternmakers established a specialism in culture, creativity and community. It’s because we care deeply about the arts, cultural expression, recreation and bringing people together.
I left the professional services world having worked with people and organisations with dubious ethics. Today, I’m very deliberate in selecting clients and partners that demonstrate exceptionally high standards of integrity and care for others.
We develop respectful, warm, long-term relationships with our clients, who we care for, and who care for us. It makes us want to jump out of bed each morning and bring extraordinary energy to our work.