I was recently given an interesting assignment – produce a document assessing the skills and capabilities of a department based on feedback gathered from our delivery team. To put this in context we were mainly evaluating category managers and how they performed in their roles. This task required precise planning and deliberate thought on how to gather feedback in an efficient yet meaningful way. There were three components that were especially important to ensure a holistic deliverable:
  1. Quantitative feedback – scoring each individual on a list of criteria
  2. Qualitative feedback – gathering general comments and insight from firsthand accounts
  3. Content Delivery – ensuring that a concise yet comprehensive message is conveyed 
Before we look at the three key components it is important to address one thing – we wanted to create an assessment based on interactions and aimed to minimize all subjectivity that could creep in. It is paramount to always back assertions up with evidence and paint the fullest picture you can. This picture may have some inherent bias, but will be more compelling if supported by concrete facts.

Quantitative Feedback – It is important to have some type of numerical scoring when assessing capabilities. The purpose of these scores is to help understand where someone falls on a scale, helping to compare overall performance to a benchmark. Things that are important to consider when looking at a full spectrum range from analytical skills to negotiation capabilities to contracting. A key part of impactful quantitative feedback is having multiple evaluators review a certain individual’s capabilities. This allows for more data points and a clearer, less one sided story. It is important to understand every evaluators relationship with the individual being evaluated (are they a direct report, boss, colleague or external party) and how much interaction they have on a daily basis. Scores will inherently be varied across the board even with a methodology of how to score – this is due to the fact that everyone has different perceptions and evaluations styles. When looking at final scores across the board it is important to understand deviations between different evaluators. If a 1-5 score methodology is applied, anything above a 2 deviation should be reviewed to gain more clarity into why there was such a gap. Additional conversations should be conducted with the evaluators to gain more insight.

Qualitative Feedback – This helps paint the contextual story, without this important observations may be overlooked. It is important when soliciting qualitative feedback that factual examples are given to back up a certain assertion or claim. Simply saying that John Doe does not communicate well is not helpful. This needs to be backed up with an example such as John Doe struggles to communicate and get his point across succinctly in large group settings. Additionally it is important when noting a strength or a weakness to follow that up with a plan for growth or mitigation. The thoughts conveyed should be clear enough to translate to a bullet format later on with the main essence of the thought still intact. Overall the most important part of the qualitative piece is telling a compelling story about the individual’s profile, highlighting both strengths and weaknesses.

Content Delivery – Delivering the message to an end audience is perhaps the most important piece of the entire process. This requires skillful decision making regarding what is important from the discovery phase and what is just noise or a one off occurrence. Balancing both the quantitative and qualitative feedback is also key in this exercise. The same key metrics should be highlighted for each individual being evaluated in addition to a level (beginner, proficient, expert or any other hierarchy system you deem suitable) being assigned. The most thematic feedback from each stakeholder should be captured in the qualitative feedback section – highlighting the 4-5 key statements that truly embody the individual whose capabilities are being assessed. Following these guidelines will ensure a thoughtful yet concise and targeted approach will be delivered to the end audience. In the case of our capabilities assessment the output was being shared with an executive group, as is the case most times in these situations. It is important to make the most effective use of the limited time they have while giving the most impactful narrative possible. Often times these outputs are used to influence revamped organizational design and organizational change. This is why it is even more key to paint a clear and accurate picture that is actionable ensuring minimal interpretation from the end audience.

All in all, the key to conducting a successful capabilities assessment of your procurement organization or any organization for that matter is following a methodical process for discovery and conveying the findings in a concise and clear manner tailored to the end audience. This may feel like a tricky task to accomplish especially given you will in an essence be evaluating an individual’s capabilities and indirectly their performance. Realize that the most important thing is to keep an objective approach always trying to cite fact based examples when possible. The key goal for any organization embarking on this journey should be how can we reposition and retrain existing talent to be more effective in their current or future role.
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Samer Ijaz

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