Developing the Goal Components of the Plan Progress Benchmark
The Progress Benchmark must represent ‘apples to apples’ data. It must match the type of Baseline data in order to be used to draw conclusions and establish facts. Generally, the Progress Benchmark will be a projected amount of expected progress or success. If the Baseline is numeric data, for example a percentage, then the Progress Benchmark must also be a percentage, so the two data points can be compared. If Baseline data is a quantity or number, for example the number of referrals to OOD by a school district, then the Progress Benchmark must also be a quantity or number.
Sometimes the Baseline data is a description of the current status or starting point for the goal, and not numeric. In this case, the Progress Benchmark should describe the desired status after the goal is implemented. In other words, a description of how things will be improved, different or transformed after the Team carries out the goal. For example, baseline for a goal about establishing an Implementation Team could be described as ‘no such Implementation Team exists.’ The Progress Benchmark could be written as something like: ‘Implementation Team of 15 members, representing at least 5 different agencies that meets on a regular basis is established.’ This describes how things will be different after the goal is implemented.
The Baseline data describes the starting point. The Progress Benchmark sets the target level of improvement from the baseline that the Team is planning to achieve as a result of implementing the Goal and strategies.
Some questions to consider in setting a target for improvement:
- What is the timeline within which the Goal will be implemented?
- What degree of result or amount of progress could reasonably be expected from implementing this one Goal?
- How does the Team set high expectations for accomplishment that are tempered with realistic expectations, given resources, time and influence?
- Does the Team have or can they leverage the resources needed to implement the goal?
State the Progress Benchmark affirmatively. This represents the amount of progress for which the Team is planning. Use language that firmly establishes that benchmark. Avoid terms like ‘we hope to’ or ‘we would like to increase’. Identifying a definite target communicates the Team’s confidence in their plan. If the Team is not confident about their plan, review and resolve disconnects or make revisions.
Should data gathered using the Progress Monitoring Method show that the effort fell short of the benchmark, this gives the Team the opportunity to delve into why that happened. The goal, strategies and benchmark can be revised or changed. Don’t be afraid to set the bar for improvement as high as is reasonable and realistic for the timeline and resources! A little failure should be expected and used as a learning experience for future efforts. A 5 Whys discussion to uncover root cause is a useful tool for problem solving the reasons something did not work as intended.
The complex problems the Team will tackle in the course of making systems change will require complex solutions, with more than one Goal necessary to make and sustain changes in the practice of professionals working with transition youth.
The results brought about by effectively implementing each Goal, over time result in observable, tangible, and measurable improvement toward realizing the Vision. The data established, gathered and analyzed for each Goal provides concrete evidence of the amount of progress. The data give substance and a base of factual information that clearly demonstrate the amount of change that has taken place. Such data is valuable in enlisting the support of agency and community leaders, and for policy discussions with state leaders.