When you're immersed in carrying out a program or strategic plan, it's important to build in times to evaluate how it's going so you can make adjustments as needed. The alternative — waiting until the program ends to evaluate its success — risks wasting resources on unsuccessful activities and missing opportunities to amend the program as needed.
You wouldn't hire someone for a job and wait until he fails completely and is let go from the job to look back and see what went wrong. You evaluate him at intervals to steer his direction, adjusting his course or responsibilities as needed. This is called "evaluation and control," and it's an important part of managing any program, plan or job.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Evaluation and control is a step built into a strategic plan so the plan can be evaluated while it's being implemented and changes can be made to the plan as needed.
Understanding the Purpose of Evaluation
When you initially plan your strategy, you're basing it on that moment in time. What happened in the past is irrelevant except to learn from it, and you don't know what will happen in the future, so you can't plan for it. However, as you implement your strategy — especially over several years of a plan — you may be doing so based on information that has changed. After all, the market is continually changing.
A new entrant to your market with a product that competes with yours can change the buying habits of your target market. Perhaps you may sense that your strategy isn't working well, but you aren't sure why. Perhaps you have no idea that the market has changed, but you don't want to be blindsided by it if it has changed.
The importance of evaluation is that many times, you don't know what you don't know. Scheduling evaluation and control in your strategic plan isn't a reflection on those who devised the plan. The evaluation isn't "grading" the people who worked on the plan; it's a built-in opportunity for the plan's designers to be participants in strategic evaluation of the plan — to see how it's going and make adjustments if needed. Change is natural over time, and the need to make adjustments to strategic plans is very common.
Knowing the Meaning of Control
The word "control" by itself can make people uneasy. When someone has control of something, everyone else doesn't have control, and certainly, no one wants to be controlled.
In the context of the phrase "evaluation and control," however, "control" means that those who evaluate the strategic plan have the ability to control the strategy by making changes as needed while the plan is still operational. Those who devised the strategic plan take control by evaluating it at this point, and they:
- Determine how well the plan is working
- Pinpoint where the plan is not working well
- Look for gaps that need to be filled to cover unexpected actions
- Decide if adjustments or changes need to be made to the plan
- Alter the strategic plan by making changes
Defining Four Types of Control
Management strategists have defined four types of control:
- Premise control: The designers of your strategic plan relied on specific premises, such as specific competitors and known industry factors. If any of these have changed, you probably need to make changes to the plan with these new factors in mind.
- Implementation control: Have activities or projects been implemented on time, have they unfolded as planned and have milestones been met? If not, what do you need to change so the rest of the plan will be implemented as intended?
- Special-alert control: If a competitor introduces an unexpected product that's directly competing with one of your products, you need to evaluate its effect immediately and not wait until your planned evaluation. A fire in your warehouse that causes delivery delays, an IT problem that slows the order process or the discovery that your system has been hacked are all reasons for special-alert control.
- Strategic-surveillance control: This means paying attention to everything going on around you in your industry and the general economy. Scan industry publications, go to or read about conferences and conventions, network and review social media regularly so you're in the loop on any happenings or changes that could affect your strategic plan.
The evaluation and control process allows you to intelligently adjust your strategic plan, changing its course or putting it back on track so it continues to work for you.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She has written on business topics for afkinsider.com, smallbusiness.chron.com, Harbor Style Magazine, the Charlotte Sun and more, as well as advertising copy and materials. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards in B2B and B2C marketing.