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Outcome Thinking & Management: Why Outcomes Matter

Outcome Thinking & Management: Why Outcomes Matter


For all the complexity around evaluation and outcome management, outcome
thinking, and then outcome doing, outcome management. We define an outcome framework in three
very simple questions, and if you can answer them
affirmatively you have developed a successful outcome framework. So the first one is can you define success clearly and cohesively for your program or for
your organization as a whole. The second question is how do you know, can you verify whether that success has
actually been achieved, right? So how do you track toward that
success? And the third question then has to do
with, about halfway through or part way through your program, if you were to check in and see how
things were going, could you confirm that you’re actually
on track to achieve the success that you defined.
Now the specificity of an outcome framework is critical, so setting
very specific targets for your plans is a critical piece in making sure that you’ve defined an outcome framework. So we often hear this question from our
clients, from nonprofits throughout the country, and,
you know, they say if we intuitively know that we’re doing good work, why do we need to do outcomes management,
anyway? You know, we’ve been doing this for 30
years, forty years, a hundred years! And my response to that is really to say that if you’re doing good work, you want to make sure that you get
beyond the success stories and the anecdotal
evidence of that good work. We all have a success story to tell–
what we want to know for using an outcome framework, and outcome
management, is that that success story actually
transpires to all of the clients that we serve, not just
that one person that we saved or somehow allowed to achieve human gain. So the response is that yes, you can be effective, but you
could certainly be more effective and you will certainly be able to know
how effective you’re being if you have a solid outcome framework in place. It’s really common in the social sector right now to
use the word impact, whether it’s social impact, impact
measurement, impact management. The fact is, that at
least from a research standpoint, impact is something that’s longitudinal,
so we might not know, especially as an individual program or
organization, whether we’re achieving impact unless we
have the resources to measure and manage that over the course of five to 10 years. So impact is elusive for most programs and
most organizations, and that’s the reason that it’s so important
to focus on outcomes that are tangible, measurable and manageable, within a more specific time frame,
typically within one year. Many organizations engage in strategic planning in order to make sure that they
know where they’re going over the next five to 10 years, perhaps
three years, for their organization. It’s critically important to infuse an
outcome framework so that the results of where you’re going are clear. You know exactly what you’ve
achieved through that strategic planning I like to think of outcome frameworks and
strategic planning being along the continuum that includes evaluation and fundraising, and
it’s very important, from the outset, to know what results
you’re targeting, how you’re going to get there, and
whether you know whether you’ve achieved them or not. Otherwise, strategic planning risks being
just a plan that’s put on the shelf, rather than a framework that you can
actually manage by, and achieve by. %uh cool

  • 1:53 As a note, It seems even more important for nonprofits to identify whether they are producing something with their work. That is because for profit organizations are built upon the idea of outcome, and therefore adjust their strategies to the outcome they want to see.

    There's nothing wrong with testing your strategies to see if they produce the results you want to see. Otherwise you're a puppy chasing his tail.

  • 2:23 Knowing "how" effective you're being is more important than simply knowing that you "are" effective, particularly when you're attempting to get someone to support or join you in your goals.

    Saying that you have helped "get a homeless person off the streets" is a lot less potent than, "We have managed to get sustained jobs for 65 of the 150 homeless men we have worked with this year, that is 10 more per capita than last year and that is more than other organizations in our area."

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