||RANDOMIZED CONTROL TRIAL AND PERFORMANCE
In 2004, CEO participated in a multi-year randomized control trial (RCT). Commissioned by the Admin- istration for Children and Families and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CEO was one of four organizations selected as part of the Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project. MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social and education policy research organization, led the evaluation.
Although an independent RCT, which factors out historical, selection, and maturation biases, is con- sidered the “gold standard” for determining program effectiveness, an organization cannot wait for the results of a multi-year study to implement and improve performance management practices. Re- al-time performance management requires a monitoring framework that includes processes to adjust and improve an intervention on a continual basis (i.e., actions leading to measurable changes). This management framework was not fully established at CEO when EMCF made its initial multi-year investment in 2004, nor was it easy to implement when it became clear that improvements were nec- essary. In CEO’s early years, management activities were primarily focused on achieving contractual outputs and deliverables on an annual basis. CEO was proficient in collecting data and reporting it to funders, but the organization did not consistently and effectively use data tactically to track partici- pant progress, to make course corrections, and to manage to short-term outcomes.
Fortunately, EMCF provided the resources to engage in a range of capacity building activities. These included a) creating a theory of change that serves as a blueprint for program intervention and out- comes measurement; b) developing a perfor- mance measurement system — fully adopted by CEO employees — that systematically and visually tracks the progress toward pre-de- fined outcomes; and c) nurturing a perfor- mance culture that continuously reinforces the use of data and evidence to measure and understand program progress, build knowl-
“Encouraging database adoption went hand-in-hand with creating a performance culture. It was the
most arduous change process CEO has ever faced.”
edge and correct performance gaps.