TOOLS: Data Gathering Methods
Method Description Tips

Interviews with:

  • Management
  • Exemplars
  • Workers
Interviews are conducted one-on-one or with a small group (the smaller the better so that everyone has a chance to contribute fully). Interviews can be used throughout the data gathering process, but they are perhaps most useful during the performance analysis stage, when you are trying to determine what the real performance deficiency is. Although the process is time-consuming, it is useful because you can gather specific information and ask follow-up questions to get more detail on items of particular interest.
  1. Write down your questions before the interview and give them to the person(s) being interviewed, if possible
  2. Decide beforehand how you want to document the information you gather
  3. Consider videotaping the interview so that you have a record to refer to later
  4. Put the persons being interviewed at ease by telling them the purpose of the interview and how you will use what they tell you
  5. When appropriate, assure them that what they say will be kept confidential
Panels of Experts Panels of experts are used to get the collective observations and opinions of the “best of the breed.” They are particularly useful when there is not one correct solution or procedure (e.g., conducting a goal analysis).
  1. Make sure that each participant is truly an expert
  2. Let participants know well in advance what you expect of them and give them time to prepare
  3. Focus the discussion on the topic at hand and keep participants on track
  4. Document your panel just as well as you documented interviews
Observations Direct observation of work performance is an excellent means of gathering data. Observations are usually done in conjunction with another data gathering method that is used to fill in the gaps and answer questions.
  1. Make sure to arrange your observations well in advance and get permission from management
  2. Let workers know why you are observing them
  3. If possible, have an expert with you who can tell you what to look for
  4. Videotaping observation sessions works well if it is permitted


  • Formal
  • Informal
Surveys are used when you want to gather data from a large number of people and when it is impractical to meet them all face to face. Surveys can be both formal (where the results are subject to statistical reliability and validity) and informal (where results are anecdotal). In the developing-world reproductive health context, there are relatively few commercially designed instruments. Although PRIME might be able to design some generic survey instruments, the unique problems and country differences might limit their usefulness. Clearly, it is expensive to design a survey for one performance improvement effort, so while we include surveys in this table, we are not optimistic about their applicability (except on a small, informal basis).
  1. Decide up-front if you need to base your conclusions on statistically valid and reliable data. If so, consult an expert to help determine your sample group, method of data collection and how you will compute your results
  2. It is best to use commercially designed instruments, if they are available. They save development time, and they have been tested to ensure they work
  3. If you must design your own survey, make sure you try it out on a sample group from the target population
Reviews of Performance Data Almost all organizations maintain records. They may include data about time and attendance, rates of production, and cost of goods sold. A review of some of these records can provide valuable information to substantiate the performance deficiencies under consideration and lead to potential causes. In the contexts in which PRIME II operates, one of the challenges will be to determine which data are relevant and whether the quality of the data is adequate.
  1. Make sure you understand how the data were collected and what the data mean
  2. Make sure that the data you have are current. Outdated data can be more harmful than no data at all
  3. It is important that you comply with any restrictions your client puts on your use of their data. Unauthorized use of confidential data can be illegal and harmful to the organization