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Stacey Barr
Stacey Barr
Performance Measure Specialist

Stacey Barr Pty Ltd

What's The Difference Between Evaluation And Performance Measurement?

Posted over 7 years ago

Evaluation is about looking for improvement. But so is performance measurement. So why don’t we call them the same thing? Well, it’s because they’re different.

Even though both performance measurement and evaluation are about deciding if something is better or not, they differ in a few fundamental ways.

Evaluation focuses on an intervention. Measurement focuses on a result.

That might sound not quite right. Evaluation is about results too, isn’t it? Yes but in a different way.

Performance measures focus on specific performance results that might be the target of several interventions, several different initiatives or projects applied at different points in time. It’s about asking the question "Is this result improving or not?"

Evaluation is usually about asking the question "Did this intervention work or not?"

Evaluation is a point in time. Measurement is through time.

Evaluation is usually about a before and after comparison. You want to set a baseline with certain indicators before an intervention takes place, and then compare those same indicators after the intervention is done:

  • What impact did this education program have on teenage pregnancy in our city?
  • How did speed-related traffic accidents change as a result of the lates TV advertising campaign?
  • How much did customer loyalty change after we implemented our new loyalty rewards program?

Performance measurement is a continual monitoring of a result through time, often for many years, to look for different signals of change that might be due to a range of different programs or campaigns or initiatives:

  • How is teenage pregnancy tracking over time?
  • Is the rate of speed-related traffic accidents increasing, decreasing, or staying the same?
  • What signals or patterns are there in the trend of customer retention rate?

Evaluation looks for the story. Performance measurement looks for the signals.

Evaluation certainly can use quantitative measures to decide if change has happened or not. But it also very often pulls qualitative information into the pot. Sometimes, as with the Most Significant Change Technique, the data is only qualitative.

With performance measures, you really are looking for signals of change in the time series of quantitative data. It’s not to say you should use your performance measures in isolation. When linked together, a set of performance measures can tell a powerful story too.

The difference is subtle, but definitive.

You can use evaluation to see if a specific initiative has had an impact on a particular performance measure. And you can use performance measures as tools within an evaluation. The perspective that each takes is a bit different, is all.


What’s your opinion of the differences or similarities between evaluation and performance measurement? Share your suggestions on the blog.

Comments (4)

Rashed Nabi
Rashed Nabi
Performance Measurment Analyst at Fisheries and Oceans Canada

A lot of ideas. But I’m not sure if it will clear the mist or create more confusions. Some of the example are somewhat confusing. The two sets of questions concern more about scale rather than about different levels of measurement. It is right however to say evaluation is more comprehensive than performance measurement. Performance measurement is mainly deals with targets of specific indicators and schedule. Evaluation questions the relevance and effectiveness of the results (measured by the indicators) with respect to the goals of the initiative or project. Evaluation also examines inervening variables and appropriateness of the proecesse used. It offers interpretation of why certain things failed or could have fared better. Performance measurement doesn’t go to that level.

Posted over 7 years ago | permalink
Ary Priaga
Ary Priaga
Lecturer at Bogor Institute of Agriculture

Performance measurement is part of evaluation. Performance measurement deals with target of specific indicators within a certain period. Evaluation is more comprehensive and intended to assess a strategy effectiveness in achieving certain goals or projects.

Posted over 7 years ago | permalink
Tom Grayson
Tom Grayson
University of Illinois - Urbana

I disagree with most of the general key points above. For me, evaluation is about determining the quality/merit or worth/value of something (e.g, program, policy or product). Evaluation can focus on an intervention (e.g., how well the program, policy or product is doing; how well was the program/policy implemented) and it can focus on results (how good (valuable/worthwhile) were the impacts on recipients and others?

Evaluation is about answering specific evaluative questions regarding the quality or value of whatever is being evaluated (i.e., the evaluand). Purposes of conducting an evaluation might be to find areas of improvement or to “measure” the overall quality or value of an evaluand for decision making purposes.

Measurement comes into play after identifying evaluative criteria or the dimensions of quality/merit or worth/value. Measurement determines the magnitude of a quantity. In evaluation, the question might be, how much better is program A than program B (e.g., is A doing better than B? Did A produce better results than B?)

There are various types of measurements, ordinal measures like ranking and grading – numerical values, and nominal measures like labeling. The measurement instrument could be a test, a questionnaire, an observer, or a calibrated tool such as a compass, ruler, or planimeter.

I do not find the difference to be subtle at all. I would guess that there are many people who think about evaluation in broad terms…this leads to confusion and complications when planning, conducting, analyzing and reporting evaluative findings. Evaluation is not a fuzzy discipline. It is about valuing and using facts and values in a blended manner to answer evaluative questions. One should not confuse evaluation with measurement.

Thanks for the opportunity to “think” about this question… I enjoyed it.

Posted over 7 years ago | permalink
Maria Ranjitha
Maria Ranjitha
KPI Analyst at Confidential

Thank you Stacey Barr for helping to reflect on a very crucial point. Like you stated performance measurement focuses on a target.

Based on my experience I would like to add on my reflections:

Performance measure (Result Vs Target) is the variance of a factor from its set target, outcome of which is identified as good or poor performance for which counter actions have to be taken for improvement

Evaluation (A+B+C+D= Rank/Position #) is a check for a result or outcome. It is more for ranking and competitiveness to be the best

Evaluation findings can initiate performance management better. Performance management is more abstract and vast, while evaluation is more focused and to the point

Posted over 7 years ago | permalink

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