The value of events

The past week seems to have been one of events in that I attended a change management masterclass hosted by Kogan-Page: People-centered Organizational Change: Strategies for Success. I went to a book launch of Mark and Anna Withers' new book Risky Business: Unlocking Unconscious Biases in Decisions. I spent a day on an Agile Awareness course, and I went to the European Organisation Design Forum event at the Wellcome Trust.

No one has yet asked me what was the return on investment of that time (no money changed hands) or how I would evaluate the benefits of the events. However, those are the sorts of question I do get asked so I thought I'd better have a shot at answering them.

There are various methods of evaluating training effectiveness the four stage Kirkpatrick model is one, the CIPD suggests a similar, but five stage one, another is Brinkerhoff's Success Case Method. Businessballs has a short piece summarising the most common methods and also offering access to a toolkit.

But two of the events I went to were not training in the conventional sense – they were more networking and information sharing. So how do I evaluate these events? There are some interesting blog pieces on evaluating social networks.

For example, an HBR blogger discusses four questions that help you work out the value of a network: who is in it? How well does it connect? Is there functional communication? Who are you talking to?

Another blogger offers 'Beckstrom's Law' that says 'the value of a network is the net value of each user's transaction summed up for all users. At its core, the concept is about transactions: The value for users is the total benefits from all transactions in a network minus the cost of those transactions'. This lost me.

Heading for a simpler approach than any of those offered and one that encompassed all four events I asked myself three questions:
1. Did I learn anything from any of the events that I could immediately use or apply? (Practical value)
2. Did I learn anything that increased the value of any skills, knowledge or experience I already have? (Added value)
3. Did I learn anything that piqued my curiosity, that I could come back to, that I thought would be valuable at some point though not now? (Investment value)

The answer was that for all four events I was able to answer the three questions positively. So here are some examples of the value I got by category:

Practical value

  • Links to a 3 min video The Gubbins of Government: How new technology will change the mechanics of government services that I can use in training courses.
  • A reference to EngageforSuccess an organisation that promotes employee engagement 'as a better way to work that benefits individual employees, teams, and whole organisations'. It has info, contacts, and links for immediate application into some culture work I am doing.
  • Adding to my collection of info and tools about managing change is the work of Julie Hodges that I hadn't come across before. I've just downloaded to my Kindle a sample chapter of her book Managing and Leading People Through Organizational Change: The theory and practice of sustaining change through people. In the talk she gave she shared a number of useful tools and techniques that appear in the book.

Added value

  • In my organisation design work we do a lot of stakeholder involvement activity, but at one of the events the role of the Board and Non-Executive Directors was raised. I'm not sure I pay enough attention to them in the day to day OD work we do. Bringing them into the conversation could be very useful.
  • In all four events I met people I knew from past work, networks, or communities. Just renewing acquaintance, catching up with them, sharing stories and having a laugh in the breaks is energising and fun. I went home (four times!) feeling uplifted by the contact with them.
  • One of the speakers mentioned two white papers published by the Change Management Institute one is about the future of change and the other about evolution and themes in change management. They both build on a view I hold that traditional programmatic models of change are well past their 'sell-by' date. The reports offer new approaches based around change as a process that is participatory, experimental, emergent, and 'people-powered' dispersing through organisational networks. More fuel for my fire in these.

Investment value

  • Information and a book reference on Effective Altruism that has organisational possibilities (see Patagonia's donation of every Black Friday sale to grassroots environmental organisations).
  • A great question to ponder 'What do you not value that other people say you should value'? This one may also turn out to have practical value.
  • A reference to the United Nations report and rankings on e-government that I may be able to use at an event I am speaking at next year.

How do you measure the value of the events you attend? Let me know.