Sunday, March 24, 2013

Analytical Reports: You Have to Conduct a Survey - Be Sure to Know Who's Got the Answers You Need

This is the third in a series of articles on conducting surveys required by an analytical report assignment. You know you must come up with more information in order to develop recommendations that your client can act on. It may be a company assignment. You may have been hired as an outside consultant.

Who do you need to ask questions of in order to get the answers you need. Sometimes the audience is broader than you think. You may well find that there are other stakeholders with an interest in your report that you had not considered. Let me give you an example from my own experience. I was with a consulting group conducting a health study for a region of British Columbia in Canada. As part of the study we looked at the health statistics for the region and based on those statistics we decided who were the major health-related members in the community we should speak with. There are the obvious organizations. These include hospital staff, public health staff, environmental health staff, local physicians and nurses groups, emergency services such as ambulances. They will also include indigenous groups on reserves with their own health issues.

As we were to learn, there are many more people interested in what your report is going to say that want to provide input. In smaller communities, that interest comes right from the top, from mayors, council members, any special committees they might have. It comes from any association that deals with health in other areas, such as rehabilitation, special needs, and mental health.

The point? When you develop your survey, and you've listed the people from whom you want answers, have you included all stakeholders. We're talking about inclusion here; making sure that all the voices that need to be heard, have an opportunity to express themselves. What you do not want to happen is to have some group approach you later, or worse approach your client, to say that they had been omitted from the survey and that therefore the results are suspect.

At this point you may have to make some decisions as to how you are going to proceed. A number of factors are at play. There's time. You own time is limited and there's a deadline you have to meet. Funds for this project may be limited so you can only spend so much on research. You may have extra monies in the budget to hire someone to help you.

The trickiest question of all is who gets included in the survey when it's clear you cannot include everyone. Whether you like it or not you have to prioritize. That means choosing the people you believe are most qualified to get you the information you need. What you may also be able to do is invite groups or individuals you cannot get to see, to submit their views in writing. In that way they might get included in your analytical report.

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