Jun 062011

training evaluationTraining Evaluation: Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method: An IPTers Dream

Posted on February 8, 2011 by IPTtoolkit

Training Evaluation: The Success Case Method: A Strategic Evaluation Approach to Increasing the Value and Effect of Training by Robert O. Brinkerhoff

” Despite the fact that effective human resource development (HRD) operations are vital to overall organization success,most organizations fail to evaluate the impact and return on training investments that they could and should. Traditional evaluation models and methods, with their focus on simply assessing the scope of training’s effect, do little to help reap greater performance and organizational impact from HRD and, in fact, can even undermine this purpose”

In previous post on evaluating training, I ended with presenting two facts

  • FACT #1. In the end, it’s only the last level that really matters (performance impact)
  • FACT #2.  As the ASTD reported that is the the level we as IPTers least pursue.

The level 4 is rarely reported, in my opinion, because it requires the expertise of a statistician. Frankly, numbers are not irrefutable proof. I would wager in a meeting with senior management they could care less about the statistical proof.  In my opinion, Senior management simply want us to speak their language–”what credible and valid evidence did do you have of training impact and what difference did the training make to the bottom line”.  As Brinkerhoff states, “the problem with many of the current methods of evaluation are that they are too elaborate, too complex, and too costly, too time consuming, or take a Ph.D. level of knowledge to understand or use”.

Ultimately, we as IPTers, should remember that senior management operates on judgment and best available data for decision making far more than any rigorous analysis.  While reading Brinkerhoff’s Telling Training’s Story, the simplicity and practicality is what appealed to me.  When it comes to decision making time, I prefer to be able to report in a way that senior leaders find compelling and believable.  The Success Case method (SCM) clearly allows learning professionals to point to evidence and linkages in performance terms (yep, speaking their language)  that our training programs are working.  I am not discounting the merits of Kirpatricks 4 Levels of evaluations and  will definitely use Kirkpatrick’s Level 1 and 2 evaluations for making improvements within the training program. However, I definitely prefer Robert Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method for  identifying evidence of training success (vs. statistical proof ) and for using the results of the evaluation for continuous improvement.

Here’s a good Brinkerhoff article from a 2005 issue of Advances in Developing Human Resources on the method. The Success Case Method: A Strategic Evaluation Approach to Increasing the Value and Effect of Training

There are some important differences between Kirkpatrick Based Methods and the Success Case Method. The following table developed by Brinkerhoff differentiates the two approaches.


This semester in Evaluation Methodology we have the opportunity to apply SCM and I look forward to seeing it in action.  I found a great post, Evaluating with the Success Case Method, by Tom Gram (blogger of Performance x Design).  In the article he details the steps of the SCM and then explains why he likes it (and I couldn’t agree more).

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training evaluation, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC