As I ride the train home to New Jersey from Washington DC, there is one word on my mind: impact. Impact is defined in the dictionary by the words "influence" and "effect."
As I ride the train home to New Jersey from Washington DC, there is one word on my mind: impact. Impact is defined in the dictionary by the words "influence" and "effect." Dictionary.com also describes it as "the force exerted by a new idea, concept, technology, or ideology."
Every organization is trying to have an impact. But who gets to define what that impact is? Who within your leadership team can really describe why that desired impact matters? How often should impact be reassessed? During a moment in history when we have more data than ever before, what points of inference will you choose to measure impact? And are you measuring impact with a scale that's commensurate with the problems you seek to solve?
In my experience, impact is frequently understated within organizations; it often gets relegated to a set of lifeless metrics that quantify part of the story but obfuscate qualitative understanding. No single metric can tell the real story of impact. Rather, the mechanics of measurement distract from understanding the incredible power of the 'force' exerted on someone when they come in contact with your organization.
No metric illuminates the impact on a human soul touched by the efforts of an effective organization. For example, our client Rebuilding Together is a purpose-driven organization that just released this incredible video highlighting what metrics can never capture. The video, introduces us to a courageous, brave, and grateful woman named Cheryl. Cheryl is one of more than 150,000 American homeowners that Rebuilding Together has helped over the last 25 years. In this moving video, she recounts her experience in working with Rebuilding Together and the unmeasurable impact its had on her life. The happiness and stability Rebuilding Together created for Cheryl cannot be measured by any metric, but felt in her words of gratitude that this video so eloquently showcases.
Leadership teams and boards: know that impact simply can't be mentioned on a few slides at the next annual retreat. Impact must be looked at not only in the context of the greater good your organization seeks to achieve but also in what you are doing to make an actual dent in the problems your organization exists to solve. The evidence of your organization's impact should be a grounding debate that returns with consistency.