ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

September 1997


Education 101: Redesigning Schools
Site Based Management Relocates Decision Making

Take the Good with the Bad
Positive and Negative Feedback in Creativity Sessions

Site Council Learns About Growth, Power And Communication

Knowledge Management
Taking Control of the Information Age

Etymology of a Buzzward

Investment Tip: Stay In For The Long Haul
Van Kampen American Capital Perseveres to Win AQP Excellence Award


It's About Time
by Peter Block

You Have to Be a Little Different
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review

Letters to the Editor

Views For A Change
Consultant Q&A

John Runyan Responds

You're right - most corporate mentoring programs are conceived and run as professional development programs with primary attention on the start-up and how-to's of the mentor/mentee relationships. Evaluating the overall effectiveness of these programs calls for a more balanced look at the usefulness of the program for the individuals and the company.

When I think of evaluating these initiatives, I use my "learning organization" lens and turn first to their purpose. Most frequently, mentoring programs are intended to develop the skills and promotability of people who are different from the typical managers and leaders in the organization. These differences are usually related to gender, culture, race and/or age.

At their least useful, these programs are tacked-on, superficial efforts to assuage some temporary legal or political concern with not much substantive sponsorship from leaders in the corporation. At their most valuable, these programs truly engage mentors, mentees and the rest of the organization in a series of learning exchanges that draw and develop the best from the mentees - and enable the mentees to influence the corporation by bringing their gender, cultural or other differences to core corporate issues. In my answers, I am assuming the latter context.

I think of four parts to this evaluation effort - in every part the primary value comes from the open and honest sharing of the information generated. Each of the two individuals involved, those who work near and around the mentee, and the organization as whole all have work to do and a stake in the larger mutual learning process. Instinctively I choose a qualitative and narrative mode of evaluation that elicits substantive descriptions and judgments. I would rely less on strictly numerical ratings that often reduce the evaluative process to snap judgments that lack depth and detail - and therefore less dialogue and learning. In particular, I also suggest more of an appreciative inquiry approach to evaluation to better understand what is working for the people involved, not what is problematic.

For the mentee, I believe that effective evaluation would involve both a self-evaluation and a 360º assessment from those who work around that receiver of mentoring. Some of the questions for the mentee to answer and share with all stakeholders would include:

o What is the greatest learning and value that you received from this experience?
o How do you see yourself differently now from when you started?
o What parts of your self, your background and culture are you ready to bring to your
job and the larger corporation?
o What do you see as your learning edges at this point?
o What do you need to do to sustain your learning and growth?
o What do you need from others?

For the mentor, evaluation would involve a self-appraisal and an evaluation of the progress of the mentee using some of the same questions outlined above. Some of the questions for the mentor to personally answer and review with relevant stakeholders would include:

o What is the greatest learning and value that you received from this experience as
a mentor?
o How do you see yourself differently now from when you started?
o What is the contribution that you now expect from your mentee?
o What can you do in an ongoing way to elicit this contribution from your mentee and others like your mentee?

For all those who work near and around the mentee, the 360º assessment mentioned earlier would consist of information to the mentee about perceptions, judgments and choices of these consumers of the mentee's work. Some of the questions for these colleagues and customers to answer and dialogue with others about would include:

o How did you first see and experience this mentee? How do you see and experience them now? What shifts in your perceptions do you notice?
o What work contributions do you now expect from this mentee?
o What do you believe you have to learn from the gender and/or cultural differences that this mentee brings to the workplace?
o Would you choose this mentee as a team member? As a colleague? As a manager?

For the corporation as a whole, the initial evaluation would consist of an assessment of the learning exchanges spawned by the mentoring program and the integration of ideas, approaches and problem-solving generated from the different background and experiences of mentees. As the program unfolded, later evaluations could include how many and which of the mentees has been promoted up through the organization and with what effect on the success of the company. Some of the questions at earlier stages for leaders across the organization to answer would include:

o How have mentors and mentees in this program shared their learnings widely? How are they catalysts for learning exchanges that involve others?
o How are we beginning to get the value of the diverse experiences and thinking that the mentees bring to the workplace?
o How are these exchanges opening up the flow of vital information, problem solving and creativity that we need company wide?
o What are we learning from the experiences of mentors and mentees about eliciting the best ideas and contributions from all of our employees?

Leaders of a corporation who choose to do this kind of qualitative and dialogue-oriented evaluation of their mentoring would be well on their way to making the most of their investments in that initiative. 

Click here for H.James Harrington's Response

Sept. '97 News for a Change | Email Editor
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