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A few weeks ago, I wrote about a Harvard Business Review article titled, “The Changing Role of the CHRO.” The article talks about the need for HR professionals to develop analytical skills. And I totally agree, analytical skills are important. There are many times when we must use analysis or logical reasoning.
But analytical skills are only one facet of critical evaluation. By definition, critical evaluation is “the process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.” It seems to me the key difference is the “to reach an answer or conclusion” part. Critical evaluation encompasses both thinking and action.
Even if the action is to wait, monitor, or do nothing at all. That decision is action. It was based on critical evaluation.
One of the things I like about critical evaluation is that there’s no one method. For example, you can use the Socratic method, which is grounded in hypothesis elimination. Another approach if you like hypothesis is the Scientific Method.
While Lewin’s Force Field Analysis is considered a decision making technique, I can see it being used for critical evaluation. It allows you to evaluate the forces for and against a change to reach a decision. As such, it also helps when it’s time to communicate that decision.
The important piece to critical evaluation is to find a method that works for you. You’ve probably noticed that here on HR Bartender I often resort to the dictionary to help me evaluate concepts.
The other essential action in critical evaluation is getting comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.”
Sometimes we’ll need another point of view in order to reach an answer or conclusion. Maybe we’ll need more time to consider the information. And sometimes, we’ll never get all of the information we want.
As human resources professionals, we need to be ready to evaluate data and information to make good decisions for the business. We also need to call upon the expertise of our colleagues when we’re stumped. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of smartness and strength. Because you will learn from the opportunity.2