Developing the Goal Components of the Plan Baseline Data
Each Goal includes Baseline data that defines a starting point for the Goal. A defined starting point is essential to determine how much realistically can be accomplished during the Timeline that is established. Without a starting point, defined by data, it is not possible to strategically figure out how much can get done, how long it is likely to take and what resources will be needed. A defined starting point provides a clear, specific gauge to determine how close or how far away the Team is from the end point, which is defined by the Progress Benchmark.
Baseline and Progress Benchmark data useful for decision making is referenced to the Goal, and NOT to individual strategies within the goal. Teams may want to also keep track of progress toward accomplishing some of the individual strategies. Data tied to strategies in itself does not illustrate progress toward the Team’s Vision; it does indicate task completion necessary to implement the strategy. Baseline and Progress Benchmark data referenced to Strategies can provide an important record of the details connected to implementing the goal. This data could assist the Team in revising a strategy to be more effective and in replicating a particular event or activity. But data tied to individual strategies is not as useful for data-based decision making. Review the Goal-Vision discussion for more information.
Baseline data for the Goal may already exist, or it may need to be gathered before the details of the goal and strategies can be developed. When this happens, the Team first gathers and analyzes the data then updates the plan with Baseline data. Here are some guidelines for establishing baseline data:
Read the Goal statement carefully to identify the specific action the Team intends to implement. (See the SMART Goal criteria for more about the qualities of ‘action-oriented’ and ‘specific’). Then use questions to discuss data that would define the starting point or baseline for the current level, quality, quantity or other attributes of the action. This helps to define the size or scope of the proposed action.
If the action is not readily apparent, or Team members understand it in different ways, have a discussion to sort out any disconnects or imprecise language. Sometimes, the different understandings are because of vocabulary or terminology used differently by various agencies. Keep in mind that for a Multi-Agency team to get and stay on the same page, wording and the words chosen matter! Across systems, sometimes the same term means different things and, conversely, different terms can mean the same thing. The Team must have an openness with each other that makes it comfortable to ask questions and clarify language and meaning.
Questions to start a discussion to identify the action in a Goal Statement:
- What is it we intend to do that will result in a change?
- What is the primary action in this Goal statement?
- What is the specific impact of the action in this goal?
- Once the action in this goal statement is implemented, what is it that will be different, improved or changed?
- What is expected to come out (or be the outcome) of the action stated in this goal?
- Do all Team members understand the specific intended action in the same way?
Look for data that already exists. A Multi Agency team may have several data sources that are available from various agencies. Determine what you need to know, then first look for an existing data source. ‘What you need to know’ may be best expressed as a question. A question will make it easier to know when an existing data source provides the information that answers the question.
Questions to start a discussion to identify an existing data source:
- What existing data could be used to define the starting point for the primary action in this goal?
- In what way could the starting point for the main action we want to accomplish be quantified by data that is already collected?
When a source for baseline data does not already exist, look for simple methods to gather data, for example, a survey or needs assessment. It is important to know up front what information you want to gather and how the information will be analyzed and used once it is gathered. Build the what and how into the design of the survey or needs assessment to ensure questions or statements the target audience will be asked to rate will provide the information needed. Know up front how the data will be compiled, as that will impact the way the questions are structured and the type of questions used.
There certainly are many other ways to establish baseline data than surveys and needs assessments. These data gathering tools are mentioned only to illustrate that data useful for decision making about the impact of proposed actions is most valid when based on data generated by the Goal’s target stakeholders. In other words, look for data that describes the actions, knowledge, status, outputs, that capture the current status related to the Goal’s primary action. Choose data gathering methods that will likewise be sensitive to changes implemented by the group that is the subject of the proposed Goal.
If the Team has difficulty identifying what the baseline data is, review the Goal Statement so that it clearly identifies the action the Team intends to enact.