How to map your impact
I wrote last week about accepting and embracing the impact that we make on the world. That can seem like a big job so here is a process that you can follow to get you started. You can do this in excel but I love a diagram – and I have seen the power of great diagrams to motivate teams – so I suggest starting this the old-fashioned way with pens and either paper or a board.
If mapping the impact of your whole organisation feels overwhelming – or you worry you would be overstepping your remit – why not start with just your department?
1. Recruit some allies. By allies I do NOT mean ‘people who agree with you’. In fact, for this exercise you are aiming for a range of very different viewpoints because this makes it less likely you will miss an important part of your impact. If possible, convince some people from other departments, different levels of seniority, even from different regions or countries to get involved. Book yourself a meeting room and make sure you have plenty of flipchart paper or a board and smartphone so that you can capture all of your scribblings.
2. Start big. How does your work impact the world around you? Jot down anything that comes to mind. If that feels like too big a question, try to break it down. Here are some questions to ask the group:
· Which types of people come into contact with us?
· How does our organisation change lives? Those changes might be big or small
· What inputs do we require and where do they come from?
· When do we reach people and how?
· How do we go about our day-to-day work?
· What do we put out into the world? What do we take?
3. Encourage everyone to join in. The initial output will probably look like a jumbled mess of types of stakeholder, physical changes and monetary flows: staff, customers, paper and water usage, investment income. Stick down everything you can think of. If everyone in your team is keen to get stuck in then you might want to let them all loose with marker pens, or get people to shout out. If you have a quieter, more restrained group, perhaps get individuals to jot their ideas on post-it notes before you kick off the group conversation. This prevents good ideas getting lost and reduces the risk of group-think.
4. Create categories. Can you see any themes emerging from the jumble? If you can see links between your first thoughts, start with a new piece of paper and begin to group items together into bigger circles. The post-it notes can be helpful here because it allows you to move ideas around, rather than redrawing the whole picture.
The categories, their size and importance will vary greatly depending on what your organisation does and where you are based. Work in an extractive industry? Impact on the landscape and labour conditions will be more important than for an accounting firm.
If you can’t see any links, don’t panic, send everyone away with the outputs so far and ask them to ponder what you might have missed and come up with some appropriate categories – put a time in the diary to revisit the challenge. If there still aren’t any obvious linkages, put all of the impacts into a table and keep track of them this way, rather than in the classic map format.
5. Assess and (if you can) quantify. Now you that you have an initial list of your impacts (it will, inevitably, grow), it is time to think hard about what those words really mean. What is the impact that you have on staff, for example? How do you currently measure that impact and are you happy with what that impact is? For each item you have identified, try to think of at least one indicator you could use to monitor your impact.
Some things are really hard to monitor. It won’t always be possible, necessary or a good idea to put a number next to everything. Occasionally it is ok to say ‘we feel pretty good about this’.
6. Refer back to your purpose. As you have explored the mark that you make on the world there will have been some areas you felt pretty good about. Maybe you feel great. There are probably a few where you feel less positive and hopefully this exercise will have catalysed a change or two. As a final check, it is important to also judge your impact map against what you say you are trying to achieve. Put your map up on the wall next to a description of what you, as an organisation, tell the world you do. Do the two align? Are there any categories that you haven’t covered?
I would love to hear how you get on - get in touch to tell me how your mapping process work or if Meyland Strategy can help with the process.