Evaluation Tools

Evaluation Tools

To evaluate something means to judge its quality or worth. You measure your topic against a benchmark or standard of desirable traits, such as effectiveness, affordability, ease of use, and so on.

Trait Evaluation

A trait is any quality or characteristic of something. For example, a trait of a new car could be its fuel efficiency. A car has many other traits—safety, comfort, design, performance, just to name a few. Each one of those traits could be used to evaluate the quality of the car.

Trait Evaluation

In the example trait-evaluation chart below, a federal employee evaluates telework (working from a distance). She assesses her new workflow using traits that are important to her and her work life.

Trait-Evaluation Sheet (Google Doc)

Topic: Telework

Trait/Rating Evaluation Improvements
I am doing more work in less time, though my kids interrupt my workflow more than I’d like. I could rehire our old babysitter to look after my kids after school.
Teleworking saves me a two-hour commute. I get more sleep and feel less stress. However, I am isolated from my agency and colleagues. I could work in the office once a week. I could also ask my manager to include me in meetings via videoconferencing.
Work Space
4—Very good
My home office is great, but I need a business mobile phone. I could write a proposal seeking approval for my agency to expense a mobile account.
Cost Effectiveness
My salary is the same, though I save on gas and travel. I had to buy a new computer, but the savings make up the difference. N.A.

Doing a Trait Evaluation

You can download a Trait-Evaluation Sheet and fill it in to judge any topic.

  • List key traits in the left-hand column. Select qualities that are important to you.

  • Rate the topic for each trait, perhaps using a 5-point scale (5 Excellent, 4 Very good, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor). Place this rating in the left-hand column.

  • Explain your rating of each trait. Think about why you gave your topic the rating you did, and write your response in the center column.

  • List an idea for improving each trait. Write specific suggestions in the right-hand column. (Write N.A. for "not applicable" if the topic is already excellent in a specific area.)

  • Enact your improvement suggestions to make your topic more effective, efficient, or desirable.

Trait Comparison

You can also compare traits across a number of options. As before, you will select a set of desirable qualities and list them down the left-hand column of a chart. For example, if you were rating onions, you might list sharpness, sweetness, crunch, and aroma. Then, in the other columns of the chart, you will list different topics you want to compare—for example, yellow onions, white onions, sweet onions, and scallions. Then you would rate each onion for each trait.

Trait Comparison

The trait comparison below rates the qualities of various secure-entry options.

Trait-Comparison Sheet (Google Doc)

Topic: Secure-Entry Solutions

Traits ID Card Scanner Fingerprint Scanner Retinal Scanner
Effective 3 4 5
Inexpensive 4 2 1
Easy to use 4 4 3
Easy to implement 3 2 1
Easy to maintain 4 3 2
Easy to upgrade 4 3 3

Doing a Trait Comparison

You can evaluate any topic by downloading a Trait-Comparison Sheet and filling it in.

  • List key traits in the left-hand column. Select qualities that are important to you.

  • List topics to compare at the top of each of the other columns.

  • Rate each topic for each trait, perhaps using a 5-point scale (5 Excellent, 4 Very good, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor).

  • Add up the ratings for each topic to determine which has the best overall value (if all traits are equal in importance).

  • Compare across a single trait if it is most important to you. (For example, if effectiveness is more important than cost, it should receive special attention.)

  • Use your comparison to select an option and to convince others of your selection.

You can improve just about any solution by evaluating it according to your goal and objectives.

Goal/Objective Evaluation

If you have used a Planning Sheet to create a project or solution, you have a goal and objectives (answers to who, what, where, when, why, and how). You can use this strategic planning in order to evaluate the project.

Goal/Objective Evaluation

The example evaluation below uses the goal and objectives from this Planning Sheet.

Goal/Objectives Evaluation Sheet (Google Doc)

Topic: Update Quarterly Product Catalog

Goal/Objectives Evaluation Improvements
We will revise our catalog to create a magazine-like feel, with feature stories that will engage our customers and a voice and design that better represent our brand.
The features work well, but they sound like one person wrote them, and they sound different from the rest of the catalog. In the summer version of the catalog, we should have four different writers create content. We should also revise other content for voice.
The marketing, sales, editorial, and design staffs
Marketing and sales set the direction, and editorial and design produced the features. The four departments worked well together to devise this solution.
Will rework our existing catalog to add magazine elements
The new features create a more magazine-like feel, but additional changes need to be made. We should revise the voice in our product listings to match the style in the features.
In two-page spreads in each of the four major sections of the catalog
The two-page spreads work well in their four sections, but they feel distinct from the material around them. We'll need to revise the rest of the catalog to create a more consistent voice.
Starting in January with the new catalog printed and shipped by March
The editorial team got a late start but made up the time to beat their deadline. N.A.
To better engage our audience and to better present our brand
So far, customer response to the new catalog has been positive. We might want to provide these features online on our website in a growing archive.
Feature topics will be assigned, features written, and spreads designed.
Each of the teams did its work very well. We'll follow the same workflow for the summer catalog.

Doing a Goal/Objective Evaluation

Download the Goal/Objectives Evaluation Sheet. Write your goal and objectives down the first column. In the center column, write an evaluation of each part of your strategic plan. In the right-hand column, think of improvements that you could make based on your evaluation. (Write N.A. for "not applicable" if the project is already excellent in a specific area.)

SCAMPER Evaluation

A researcher named Bob Eberle created a set of questions that you can ask to evaluate something and think of ways to improve it. The first letter in each type of question spells out the word SCAMPER.

SCAMPER Evaluation

Ask one or more of the SCAMPER questions about a product, service, procedure, or concept from your company. Then apply some of your answers.


  • What alternatives can we discover?

  • Who else could be involved with this?

  • What other ideas, approaches, or materials could be useful?

  • What new goals should we focus on?


  • How can this be combined with something else?

  • How would this work if it were more like that?

  • How can this be used in a new context?

  • How can this idea connect to other people?


  • What changes would improve this?

  • How could this be modified to better fit the situation?

  • What traits could be adjusted to improve this?

  • How can this become more desirable?


  • How can this be made bigger or more powerful?

  • How can I improve performance or efficiency?

  • How can I make this faster?

  • How can I make this more impressive?

Put to Other Uses

  • What other uses does this have?

  • Who else could use this?

  • Where else could this be applied?

  • What other problem could this solve?


  • What would simplify this?

  • What would streamline it?

  • How can it become less costly?

  • What would make this more subtle?


  • What other sequence could work for this?

  • How could I turn this completely around?

  • What other part of the issue might be more important?

  • Could this happen at a different time or in a different place?

Doing a SCAMPER Evaluation

You can evaluate any topic by following this process, alone or in a group:

  • Select a SCAMPER question and answer it about your topic.

  • Generate as many answers as you can for the question, treating it as a brainstorming prompt.

  • Review your many answers and select the ones that are most promising for improving the topic.

  • Select a new SCAMPER question and begin the process again.

  • List your best suggestions for improvement and decide which you will pursue.

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