Saturday, April 23, 2005

Anonymous, I hardly knew ye

In my previous post, an anonymous friend left a comment with three questions that seemed relevant to the blog in general. In my ongoing effort to provide maximum service to all of my reader(s), I thought I would respond in a new post.

1. What if the agreements, reached in the beginning, change or evolve as movement is made toward the goal?
This is an excellent question regarding Earned Value Analysis. Because clients are free to change goals at any time, many objectives become obsolete before they can be accomplished. There are methods for dealing with this that shouldn't damage the basic right of clients to change their minds. One offhand example is that most methods of counting Earned Value give partial credit for partial success, so that if an objective agreed upon and funded with a 6-month time horizon is changed after two months, and the objective were 1/3 complete as planned, then the agency would still be evaluated well (6/6=2/2=1.) If a funding mechanism were attached, compensation for the 2 months would be equal to the portion the agency expected to earn in the same time. Please, anonymous or other reader, feel free to ask for more clarification if I haven't answered the question.

2. Do you tend to lean more toward Weber or Durkheim in your analysis of institutions?
Do what now? You may be confusing "opinionated" with "informed." If you read more weblogs about politics and government, the distinction should sharpen nicely. (Shrug)

3. What should anchor decisions about the appropriate level of intrusiveness by public authorities in a self-determined service model?
My answer would be fraud, abuse and illegality should be actively watched for and trigger intervention when identified. Other than that, self-determination should mean what it says. By public authorities, I would include government entities, government entities that assemble boards and start carrying airs of private agencies, and any mandatory reporters in proximity to the self-determined use of state funds. Self-determination is a massive re-balancing of individual sovereignty against professionalism and shouldn't be sought or entered into by any party that doesn't accept that.

I expect self-directed services to be less gratifying to it's sponsors and the professional class of social servants, messier and less predictable. Professionalism has brought a level of order and advanced philosophy to this system which has value and cost attached. Scandals and catastrophes will be more frequent, but less pervasive than in the current system where many feel there is only one scandal and one catastrophe which are inclusive.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Earned Value Analysis, Part II

OK, maybe I can make an early wrap-up of this wonkery. There are many important ways that Earned Value Analysis can be used to measure how work is going, providing, where necessary daily feedback to a client, a service provider, a regional center or the state.

One of these compares Earned Value (EV, the extent to which progress has been made against a goal) to something called Planned Value, the extent to which progress should have been made by the same point. Remember that Earned Value can be broken down into single steps, or even discrete portions of single steps. The ratio produced by dividing Earned Value by Planned Value allows an individual client to measure the success of their program, providing advice to the client or the service provider as to how successful their supports have been to any given point in time. For regional centers and the state, this ratio aggregated provides a comparable measure for external evaluation of a program or vendor. A high individual or aggregated ratio (in comparison) demonstrates that a program has been effective in assisting a client with their purpose.

Another important metric (EAC) compares EV with Actual Costs (AC, it means what it says.) This is a measure of efficiency which provides feedback to the agency as to whether it's service plan is being implemented effectively. This provides a useful metric for a service provider to identify supports which may have problems in effectiveness. Individual support plans which have an unusually low ratio of EV over AC are likely to have problems which have not been identified. For example an employee whose work typically has an unusually low EAC is a good candidate for additional training or discipline. Another example, an individual support which produces an especially low EAC vis-a-vis others in the same program with the same staff would be a good support for review as to whether there are unnoticed factors adversely affecting performance, such as the learning style of the client or environmental factors.