Present in the non-profit space, donor pressure to demonstrate effectiveness of program activities has resulted in adoption of a planning and measurement model focused on outcomes over time. A number of naming conventions are in use including Logical Framework Analysis, LogFrame, Outcome Management, Outcome Mapping, and Results Management.
The purpose is to effectively plan activities and measure results that emerge downstream from tasks performed during a project. This model supports a lifecycle horizon beyond a formal project, where by definition there must be a specific beginning and an equally specific end.
- Be more specific during planning stage on change objectives and strategies
- Early test of assumptions on change theory and strategy
- Create evaluation framework
- Clearly identify boundary partners (direct and indirect stakeholders) that may be object of change initiative
- Progress markers or milestones describing progress (incremental) leading to ideal outcome
Outcome Management focuses on activities that lead to outcomes that can be measured over time, not just a final milestone or product. Often this concept is applicable to complex change, non-linear or discontinuous initiatives, and organizational, behavioral, or social change.
Reading Jeff Patton’s fine book, User Story Mapping, he provides the vision and methods to tell an entire story, helping stakeholders and developers see and stay connected with the future impact of their individual or group work. His approach facilitates fundamental questions and group dialog such as, “Why are we building this?”
Perhaps his most important strategic contribution is to articulate a sound argument for outcome vs. output, especially output focused simply on simple feature quantity or speed to deliver more features.
- He defines, “We measure what people actually do differently to reach their goals as a consequence of what you’ve built.”
- He summarizes, “that positive change later is really why they’d want it.”
The book continues with an excellent perspective on how to think about and critique planning for resource investment: “Minimize output, and maximize outcome and impact”. Certainly applicable in the resource constrained volunteer non-profit field.
These are two complementary models where effective cross-domain leverage of tools and techniques have a strong potential to improve process and results. I recommend adding Jeff’s book to your library.