The true power of a well-formed impact plan is that it provides the organisation with essential information for learning and improving going into the future.
This involves three steps:
- gathering together results
The measurement system produces the raw results. Collected in accordance with the principles for quality measurement systems, and adjusted for the context of change, the results are objective and robust.
- understanding and explaining results
Results are linked back to the components laid out in the impact plan, and compared to expectations:
- were the inputs forthcoming as expected?
- were the activities carried out as planned?
- were the outputs delivered and the outcomes forthcoming, meeting the targets and objectives set?
- understanding and explaining the conditions for and context of change:
- did the assumptions prove to be valid?
- did changes in the surrounding environment, potentially beyond the organisation’s control, affect results?
- were the outcomes truly driven by the outputs, and did they exceed what would have happened anyway, what is happening elsewhere, and the role of other factors?
Addressing these questions, drawing on the knowledge and clarity supplied by the original impact plan, allows results to be understood and explained.
Once understood, the results support an assessment of performance, identifying what worked well and what did not. Failures are often more instructive than successes, and bad results as well as good are a crucial part of the learning process.
Lessons are drawn from the results, indicating what changes the organisation can make to improve, and informing future strategy. Changes to the context are also reviewed, as well as any upcoming changes (e.g. in policy, funding or new technologies), including any risks and opportunities, to ensure that, moving forward, the organisation is able to focus its energies and resources on the things that will work best. The impact plan anticipates this process of reviewing results and learning from them.
Beyond the well-defined aspects of the impact plan, relating directly to operational processes and their intended outcomes, the plan also covers the long-term outlook and vision.
This involves treatment of:
- the long-term future of the problem, and whether the need is likely to grow
- the long-term growth of the organisation, considered in relation to the scalability of the approach, the potential availability of capital, and the organisation’s long-term vision for itself