Sunday, May 10, 2015

Giving Feedback

One of the responsibilities we have in our mission is to gather and distribute the Priesthood Key Indicator (PKI) Reports.   These are a monthly report we get from FamilySearch.org which shows data for  how many members of the church are submitting family names for temple ordinances and how many  have put four generations of information into the Trees website.  It is a measuring stick for the degree of engagement the people in a particular area have with doing family history.   

We get reports on a stake level which compare each of the wards or branches within that stake.  These get forwarded on to the Stake Presidents and to the Area Advisors.   We also get reports  by region (such as the Auckland Coordinating Council which includes quite a few different stakes, or for the whole Pacific Area) to track how the work that month compares to the previous month and for patterns over the previous year.

The part of the work that takes a lot of time is making sure the right reports are getting sent to the right leaders, and crafting the proper sort of message to each one to go along with the charts they receive.

The reports are a combination of line carts and columns of numbers. Not everyone easily understands the way the data is shown.  For instance, there is a column showing this month's numbers and a column showing the amount of change there had been since the previous month.   Red numbers in the column representing change mean  the change is going down instead of up.  Some who we send these reports to didn't understand that at first.

That means part of our job is to explain the data in a way that it makes sense to the person receiving it, helping them to understand what each section of the report is telling them as it relates to their folks.  Keep in mind we do this for people in quite a few different countries with different native languages, with a wide diversity in cultural and educational background.

Inevitably, some of the regions are doing a fantastic job, with robust family history programs that indicate much faith and enthusiasm among their members.   Some are not.   One of our challenges is knowing how to kindly encourage leaders from those regions where nothing much is going on at all.

As I do this, I have been thinking a lot about how we give feedback in our daily lives.   To what extent to we look for opportunities to praise people for their efforts, even when, or perhaps especially when, they have not met a standard or level we wanted them to?

I also think of all the different markers we use to measure our "success" in the various areas of life, such as:
   *  the number on the scale to see if we are too fat or too thin.
   *  the number on our bank statement to assess if we have plenty of money or feel poor.
   *  the number on school grades to determine how smart or skilled we are

In many things it makes sense to look at some sort of objective measuring line to give us feedback information of how we are doing moving toward a particular goal.

But after teaching for 20 years I am all too aware that no single grade on any particular test can really say how smart or how prepared or how capable that students is.   I also know that when I look at the number of pounds or kilos that show on my bathroom scale that doesn't even come close to telling the whole story of how healthy I am.

Likewise, as we work today to send out these emails all over the Pacific responding to the numbers we see on the latest PKI reports, we want to stay mindful that these good people are often doing the very best they can, even when the numbers show backsliding or no progress.  The reports do inform us of specific areas where we might offer more training or encouragement.   But in no way at all can we ever fall into the trap of thinking high marks on one of these reports mean that area of members are "better" than those who may have gone flatline in their numbers.

The data matters, and is a helpful tool as we work to strengthen leaders and members in the Pacific Area, helping them to catch the vision of the importance of family history work.   But it is not the whole story by a long shot.

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