Building a Cadre, Part 4: Evaluation

A cadre that can rapidly adapt and improve will be able to accomplish goals that an inflexible group never will. The necessary foundation for improvement is the ability to learn.

A cadre that can rapidly adapt and improve will be able to accomplish goals that an inflexible group never will. The necessary foundation for improvement is the ability to learn, which comes from evaluating your work and identifying ways to make it better - and then incorporating those changes across the cadre. Let's examine how to do that.

This series is based off of a process for building a cadre developed by the CDC, which you can find here:

Training Cadre | Professional Development & Training | Healthy Schools | CDC
This page provides a step-by-step process of how to build a training cadre. If you are looking to maximize your professional development (PD) knowledge, skills, and resources and further your organization’s reach, consider building a training cadre.

Organizational learning is a heavily studied area for large organizations, such as major militaries (a well-known example is John Nagl's Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife), for a reason - without learning, any organization, including your cadre, will lose touch with reality. Feedback is a necessary step to prevent the cadre from simply doing the same thing over and over again, effective or not, even as the world changes around them.


To start, revisit your evaluation strategy developed during your initial assessment. What information have you collected? Is it enough to use for evaluation? If not, revisit your evaluation strategy and procedures for collecting necessary information. Keep in mind that this doesn't need to be complicated - sitting down with cadre members and talking about how things are going is a perfectly valid source of information.


Now that you have some information, it's time to review  your initial questions developed as part of the evaluation strategy and try to answer them. At a high level, you are trying to answer just a few questions:

  • Is the cadre reaching the right audiences?
  • What should be changed so we can be more effective?
  • How have previous changes gone? Are they helping?
  • Is the cadre using its resources well?
  • Is the cadre achieving its goals?

This is a daunting prospect! To break it down, here are some specific analytic frameworks you can use to look at your effectiveness.


This is in reality the most important of all the evaluation techniques. Based on the information you have - your experiences, the information others have provided you with, anything - take some time to sit and think about it. Ask yourself probing, open-ended questions. Don't be judgmental or harsh right now - no matter how badly (or well!) you may have done, it's over and this is a chance to learn from it.

It isn't always necessary, but some guiding questions can help with your reflection. Some examples are:

  • How do I feel about the work we're doing?
  • Am I doing good work? How can I do better?
  • Are we helping people?
  • Is the cadre going to achieve its goals? What do we need to keep in mind?

Note that these are all designed to be open-ended and lead to further reflection - if you answer the question with a yes or no and move on, you're entirely missing the value of going deeper. Follow up with "why?" or "what assumptions am I making?" or "what could make this better?" to try to learn and understand using these questions as guides.

For more information on this, take a look at the following guide provided by the CDC:

Group Analysis

Group analysis asks you to identify several groups of people impacted by the cadre and imagine the cadre from their perspective. Some example groups might be:

  • Someone who comes to a cadre event
  • Someone who thought about coming to the event, but didn't
  • A cadre member
  • Someone who hasn't heard about the cadre, but is in a target audience

From each of these perspectives, try to "put yourself in their shoes" and imagine how the cadre could be better. Making this deliberate effort to change your viewpoint can help you discover problems you didn't know you had.

A word of caution, however - make sure that any "answers" you get from this analysis are double-checked with reality. You're imagining how these people feel, but you are not them - so be careful what assumptions you make and treat this as an empathy exercise, not a way to decide with certainty how other people feel.

Layered Analysis

Layered analysis involves looking at your work from three (surprise) layers, addressing three different levels of abstraction:

  1. Strategic: are the mission, vision, and goals for the cadre still suitable? Do they still all support each other?
  2. Operational: are we making progress toward our goals? How could we make better progress in a general sense? (for example - are we hosting the right kind of events? are we reaching the right audiences?)
  3. Tactical: are individual events or actions effective? How can they be made more effective?

What you're trying to do here is build a pyramid of analysis. Each layer has to support the others - for example, excellent events can be less effective if they're not the right events, and the work is wasted entirely if it doesn't support the cadere's mission.

Each layer of effectiveness relies on the others, with the tactical level aimed at your specific actions in the short-term, the strategic level being your overall goals and mission, and the operational level being the glue that ensures your tactical successes are linked to strategic success.

Keep-Change Analysis

Keep-change analysis is more specifically focused, and works best with individual events, actions, or similar. After a group has wrapped up with their event, go around and ask every cadre member for at least one thing to keep (because it went well) and one thing to change (because it could be improved). This can capture immediate impressions from the event in a lightweight way, without needing to do a prolonged feedback session.

This analysis is extra useful because it's a method for gathering information and for analysis, all in one.


The things you learn through all of this hard work won't help if you keep them in your head. Make a deliberate effort to share knowledge between cadre members so that new discoveries or improvements can be put to use by everyone.

The form this takes will be entirely dependent on the cadre itself - periodically asking "anyone learned anything useful?" in the group chat, occasional discussions amongst all the cadre members about lessons learned, all the way up to presentations, classes, or written information about how the cadre can improve issued by a cadre member specifically tasked with this job. The formality and level of intensity is up to you - but whatever form it takes, make sure that the hard-won experience of each cadre member benefits the whole cadre.


You've (finally) reached the end of a five-part series on building a cadre that has run to nearly 7,500 words. I hope you come away inspired, informed, and only a little bit exhausted.

Don't be afraid to come back to this series from time to time to help you on your journey - it's a lot to absorb all at once, but fortunately you don't have to.

Changing the world is hard work, but it's worth it.