This white paper addresses the challenges of conducting rapid evaluations in widely varying circumstances, from small-scale process improvement projects to complex, system transformation initiatives.

The author presents a comparative framework of rapid evaluation methods for other projects completed with three levels of complexity:

  1. Quality improvement methods for simple process improvement projects;
  2. Rapid-cycle evaluations for complicated organizational change programs; and
  3. Systems-based rapid feedback methods for large-scale systemic or population change initiatives.

The paper provides an example of each type of rapid evaluation and ends with a discussion of rapid evaluation principles appropriate for any level of complexity. The author also presents a comparative framework that is designed as a heuristic tool rather than as a prescriptive how-to manual for assigning rapid evaluation methods to different projects.

The paper is organized as follows. Section I sets the stage by describing the Department of Health and Human Services’ effort to build internal evaluation capacity. Section II provides a review of various rapid evaluation approaches that were developed for different kinds of initiatives. Section III presents a comparative framework of rapid evaluation methods for projects at three levels of complexity: quality improvement methods for simple process improvement projects, rapid-cycle evaluations for complicated organizational change programs, and systems-based rapid feedback methods for large-scale systemic change or population health initiatives. Sections IV, V, and VI provide examples of each type of rapid evaluation. In Section VII, the paper ends with a discussion of the value of rapid evaluation principles that are appropriate at any level of complexity.


Major Findings & Recommendations

  1. No one rapid evaluation method works best in all circumstances; the right approach addresses the goals of the evaluation and captures the complexities of the intervention and its environment.
  2. Different rapid evaluation methods are appropriate for different circumstances.
  3. Quality improvement and performance measurement methods are appropriate for process improvement projects.
  4. Rapid program evaluation methods are appropriate for organizational change programs.
  5. Developmental evaluation and other systemic change evaluation methods are best for larger-scale systems change initiatives.