Situational Assessments – Key Considerations

A situational assessment involves analysing information that has been gathered for a specific purpose, drawing conclusions, formulating any required action plans and then implementing those plans. Situational assessments can be applied in many different contexts. The assessment can be used proactively or reactively, for example for strategic planning or for crisis management respectively.

There are plenty of articles on situational assessment available which explain ‘what it is’ and ‘how it is done’. This article assumes those topics are already understood and instead of re-emphasising those points, below are some key factors to consider when conducting a situational assessment.

Area of focus: internal or external?

When performing a situational assessment, it is important to understand where the area of focus is. When the area of focus is internal, for example personal goal setting or reviewing a business’s operational plans, then the assessment process must be tailored accordingly. An external area of focus, for example a marketing survey or customer needs analysis, will require different sources for information gathering and participant involvement to an internally focussed assessment like an employee survey.

Timeline: the past, present and future

Situational assessments can be triggered by past events or due to present circumstances. They can also be performed in preparation for future events or anticipated scenarios. Consciously acknowledging the timeline when commencing an assessment, not only helps the steps of gathering and analysing data, but influences decision making during the process and the formulation of any plans or the setting of any goals.

Degrees of un-/controllability

It goes without saying that it is important during a situational assessment to understand what is within our control and what is not. A detailed analysis of events that were beyond our control is often not (accurately) possible nor is it always that value-added. When preparing for potential uncontrollable events, the output of the assessment process is scenario or contingency plans which assume a level of probability. Further to understanding what is controllable and what is uncontrollable, it is important to understand that in reality there are usually degrees of control (or not) rather than full control or no control at all. Know what degree of control we have, influences the situational assessment process, and especially the outcomes.