Develop an impact management culture

Adapt your culture to bring a greater focus on learning and improvement

Culture change takes time to implement and time to embed. Make sure people have enough time to set up new impact management processes, and carry out data collection and analysis. The results won’t be immediate as new systems take time to implement, but there a few quick wins you can do to help demonstrate the value of impact management to your team. The page below provides 10 top tips for developing an impact management culture.

Top 10 tips

People generally understand and accept the rationale that looking at results and learning is the way to improve a service. But making this work in practice is a challenge, particularly on the front line where ‘evaluation’ has a reputation for taking up people’s time while offering little in return. Here are our top 10 tips for how to achieve an impact management culture.

  • Planning

    1. Agree your impact management plan

    Having a clear plan will underpin all your impact management activities and help you to involve staff, volunteers and users

    To draft your plan, you could...

    • Visit our planning section for guidance on defining who your service is for and the change you want to create
    • Prioritise your data based on the questions you most need to answer
    • Visit our data section to review your existing data collection and analysis methods and identify any new methods you could use
    • Consider who is responsible and accountable for collecting, analysing and learning from data
    • Identify the timing and milestones for when data collection, analysis and reporting will happen
    • Put all of this information in one place if possible, it could be a simple Word doc or a Google Doc or Google Sheets to allow greater sharing
    • Decide when and how often your impact management plan will be reviewed and updated

  • Feedback data

    2. Tell everyone about your impact management plans

    Help people in your organisation to understand what impact management is, why they should care about it and what your plans are.

    You should try to get everyone within your organisation to understand:

    • What impact management is and how it will help the organisation. Please see our suggested arguments and feel free to adapt.
    • What your specific impact management priorities are. This shouldn’t be too difficult, because by now you will have already agreed what information your project needs (see the data section). It is just a matter of ensuring everyone understands these priorities and cares about trying to answer them. For instance, in a project that has challenges engaging people from a particular ethnic background, do all staff and volunteers know this is an issue and want to help you address it?

    You may also need to address misapprehensions about impact management. In particular, convincing people that the aim is to support their work and maximise impact for beneficiaries rather than as a way of monitoring or judging their performance.

    Actions you could take

    • Write a very simplified / high level version of your impact management plans and priorities that you can use to engage as many people as possible across your programme or organisation.
    • Discuss impact management with other frontline staff and managers. Explore why you think impact management will be useful and the different ways in which it might help people to do their job. Find out which arguments are most engaging for people and what barriers they think they might face.
    • Look at our impact management communication guidance and adapt it for your communication within your organisation.
    • Review your organisation’s public materials and website to see how well impact management and learning is reflected—update if necessary.
    • Reflect on how different parts of the organisation are doing: Does everyone follow the description of impact management? Do they understand their role within this?
    • Review all of your impact management documents to make sure they are jargon free and written in plain English

    Further information on how to communicate about impact management

    • Look at our description of an ideal impact management culture and the arguments you can make to engage others in impact management.
    • Look at this infographic on engaging staff in building an impact culture. Which options could apply to you?

  • Culture

    3. Get buy-in by involving people

    A great way to build commitment to impact management is to involve staff, volunteers and service users in the design of impact management processes.

    Actions you could take

    • Go through the questions in our planning section as a group
    • Get people’s input into your impact management plan by holding a workshop or sending a short version of your impact management plan with some key questions to everyone in the organisation.
    • Find out about involving your service users at every stage of impact management
    • Ask a sample of staff and users to comment on draft data collection tools—like questionnaires and sign-up forms. They could do this in person or online if you upload forms to a shared online folder.

    Further reading

  • Abacus

    4. Demonstrate the value of impact management

    Perhaps the most valuable thing you can do is to demonstrate how impact management is actually being used to improve your project’s work and increase impact.

    We suggest making the results from impact management the focus of internal communications, and always sharing the results of data with those that have been involved in collecting it and others in the sector who could learn from you.

    Questions to ask yourself

    • Do front line staff know what happens to the data that is collected?
    • Do you have a channel for regularly communicating results from impact management activities?
    • Are there are opportunities for staff to hear about results and discuss them?

    Actions you could take

    • Share findings within your organisation to motivate people, share best practice and encourage staff to adapt what they are doing. Give people access to explore the data for themselves, or setting up a dashboard showing the key information relevant to them.
    • Write case studies from your experience at the organisation where collecting, reviewing and sharing data was useful in improving what you do. Share these throughout the organisation.
    • Make the results from impact management a standard meeting agenda in all team and board meetings
    • Write and encourage others to write blogs on what you learned from the data (eg, on your website or on a platform like Medium) to share externally

  • venn diagram

    5. Define roles and responsibilities

    Everyone involved in a service should be aware of their role in impact management and it is important to define responsibilities.

    For example:

    • Senior staff and trustees set the tone and promote impact management as an essential part of the service (as important as finance and risk). They will set up impact management systems, allocate resources, recruit the right people and communicate what the service learns from data and how they are acting on it.
    • As the interface between senior and frontline staff, managers play a crucial role in building an impact management culture. They can promote good practice, connect people who could learn from one another, take time to understand the results, and think about what can be done to improve.
    • Frontline staff and volunteers are often responsible for service delivery and data collection, meaning they can offer useful feedback about what is happening on the ground.
    • Beneficiaries should have opportunities to share their views and contribute to the development of the service.

    Actions you could take

    • Make it clear who is accountable for planning, collecting, reviewing and sharing data. Consult on these roles. Does everyone understand and agree with their responsibilities? Make sure responsibilities are in your impact management plan.
    • Run a workshop for trustees to explore their commitment to impact management.
    • Make time to discuss impact management in all board meetings, senior management meetings and team meetings.
    • Update job descriptions to include responsibilities for collecting, analysing and using data.

    Further reading

  • Get started

    6. Recruit and train people

    Staff and volunteers will need the right commitment and skills to make the most of impact management.

    New recruits should be able to demonstrate a commitment to using data and learning. Services will need someone with data analysis responsibilities who can:

    • Clean and manipulate data.
    • Extract insight from data through analysis: Understand the data they are analysing, ask the right questions, and interpret results.
    • Have a knowledge of basic statistics - as well as of relevant analysis programmes like Excel pivot tables.

    Actions you could take

    • Think about the skills you need and if there are any skills gaps in your organisation
    • Look into training opportunities for trustees, management and staff in understanding how to collect, analyse, review and share data
    • Read the skills and analysis sections of the Data Maturity Framework to learn more about the skills needed

  • Impact data

    7. Think about incentives

    Think about how else you can promote impact management in the organisation.

    Actions you could take

    • Write impact management into job descriptions and staff performance frameworks. Broadly people can be given credit for how much they contribute to impact management and learning in the organisation
    • Brainstorm with colleagues about how to embed impact management into processes and systems such as: Performance & pay; Recruitment; Strategy development; Project management. Similarly volunteers might be motivated by prizes and other forms of recognition.
    • Get people to act as ‘champions’ within the organisation. This can be a good way to bridge gaps between different people in the hierarchy or across different sites. Champions can promote impact management generally or take on specific roles like answering particular learning questions. Think about which staff will be most be enthusiastic and approach them to gauge their interest. Who has skills and experience that they can share with others?
    • Use team meetings to highlight examples of people making a contribution to the organisation’s impact management, however big or small.
    • Ask staff how they feel about the success and failures in collecting, reviewing and sharing data in annual performance reviews and exit interviews. Report these findings at management and board meetings.

    Further reading

  • Checklist

    8. Make data collection and data use as easy as possible

    Perhaps the most important factor in securing support from the front line is designing systems that make data collection and the use of data integral to the day-to-day work, not an “add-on”.

    This is easier said than done, but it means ensuring processes that are as light-touch as possible - preferably part of the work itself (i.e. data entered there and then) and provides immediate information and feedback which staff can use themselves to support their work.

    This is equally important for collecting any informal feedback from beneficiaries and stakeholders (for example verbally or through social media) which will disappear into thin air unless there is a process for capturing and storing it somewhere. A ‘comments’ book is the old fashioned way to do this while establishing a social media hashtag is the modern way.

    Actions you could take

    • Spend time shadowing and talking staff to understand the complexities and processes involved in collecting, reviewing and sharing data. Think about what gets in the way when you collect data and consider how frontline staff could be supported in doing this.
    • Think about how frontline staff could have more meaningful conversations with service users to collect information about how your organisation's work has helped them, in addition or instead of the current form filling exercises.
    • Survey staff using our impact management questionnaire or set up a feedback meeting to get peoples’ views on the value and time required to collect requested data and what can be done to improve this.

  • Coggs

    9. Set up systems and processes for learning

    So much organisational learning stays in people's heads, so you need to find ways to encourage and make it easy for people to share their thoughts.

    The classic approach is to cover learning in team meetings or occasional conferences (better still if there are processes for sharing and disseminating between teams). You could introduce more structure to this, for example always having learning meetings at the start and end of projects, or at regular intervals.

    Modern technology also gives us new possibilities; you can set up intranets and forums, and there are online tools like Slack, Medium and others for sharing information between teams.

    Questions to ask

    • Do teams share data and insights with each other? Do management collect feedback from frontline staff on what can be improved?

    Actions to take

    • Write up a list of the methods that you currently use to record and share learning. Which are most useful? What is missing? Are any not working that you can get rid of?
    • Review this list of online knowledge management systems that can help share learning throughout your organisation.

  • Lightbulb

    10. Tolerate mistakes and failure

    It’s important to promote a mindset that focuses on improvement. Any disappointing results should be accepted and examined, and staff should feel free—even encouraged to do this.

    Some organisations even throw failure parties where people can get together and share what hasn’t worked.

    Questions to ask yourself

    • Do we openly share findings across the organisation and beyond the organisation?
    • Do we share failures as well as successes?
    • How do people respond to failure or disappointing results? Do they evade them. Or do they try to get to the bottom of them?

    Actions you could take

    • Talk to staff / volunteers about situations when things didn’t go to plan or as well as they should and explore what could have been done differently.
    • Discuss with the board when in the past, trustees have discussed learning and things that did not go to plan and how this was useful

    Further information

Here are a few of our favourite resources if you would like more information about culture:

Next steps