“The biggest single problem in communications is the illusion that it has taken place.” Read that last week and cheered.
The notion that the simple act of delivering a press release or conference speech means “communication” can be struck off the To Do list is as common as it’s deadly. It’s why outputs (number of releases/ size of events) are often used to measure success when it’s outcomes (changing behaviour/ converting enquiries into sales) which matter. I’ve written before about how difficult proper evaluation is, but without it you don’t know if you’re actually communicating or just talking to yourself.
The bonfire of the qangos might not be such a popular rallying cry if the quangos themselves could point to some hard evidence of their own achievement. As David Cameron gets his matches ready, there’s a desperate need for NDPBs (and grant-funded voluntary sector bodies too) to be able to demonstrate that they represent value for money. Sadly, in my experience, staff in bodies like this are happiest when they’re talking about the (undoubted) social need for their services and the benefits they were set up to deliver. Mention of evaluation, demonstrating value for money, even – heaven forbid – the need to become self-supporting by selling commercial services, makes them come over giddy as a Victorian vicar accidentally catching sight of an uncovered table leg. They should all be in a tearing hurry to get measures in place which demonstrate hard evidence of their usefulness. If they can’t it’ll be hard to grieve too much when they start to smoulder.