Influence (or Impact) Versus Control

April 14, 2015 by Stacey Barr

Guest author Jerry Stigall, Director of Organizational Development at Denver Regional Council of Governments, has written a guest post on what to say when they say “we’re not measuring that because it’s outside our control”.

How many times have you heard in a performance measure session the first reason for not measuring something is, “We don’t control that”? When it comes down to a great deal in the world, there’s very little of it we do control.

So, I’ve devised a way to help people understand influence vs. control as it relates to performance measure design using the Logic Model.

1. Using a flipchart or whiteboard, draw the Logic Model using these components left to right:

Inputs –> Activities –> Outputs –> Outcomes

This just puts the entire model in perspective, and you might only need to use the illustration with the first and last steps (Inputs –> Outcomes). But if it helps, list major Activities and Outputs under those steps for reinforcement.

2. Under Inputs, place the entire budget/revenue of the department, organization, whatever.

If you don’t really know it, pick a very large number and ask for agreement that it’s at least this. Include people, equipment, and everything else that goes into the Input step. If you placed a few major activities under the Activities step, include them in your illustration and the same for Outputs.

3. Place a few or all strategic outcomes and/or objectives under the Outcomes step in the Logic Model.

Ask the (rhetorical) question; “You mean to tell me, we have all these resources coming to bear on these outcomes/objectives and we’re having no impact on them? Then why are we in business?”

If you’ve added the Activities and Outputs, just ask the question this way; “You mean we have all the resources, generating all this activity and energy, producing these (outputs) and we’re having no impact at all?”

You could technically get as deep into this discussion as you would want by using all steps of the Logic Model.

The response is usually one of enlightenment. If you cannot budge people off the ‘we don’t control that bandwagon’ this method has worked well in every situation I’ve used it so far. I developed it due to the same experiences everyone else encounters doing this work.

Have fun with it. I hope it’s helpful.

DISCUSSION:

How do you respond when people say they can’t control the outcomes of their work?

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  1. Mike Foy says:

    Hi Stacey,

    I have had exactly the same conversation about 6 years ago in an economic development context whereby the budget holder did not agree that levels of employment should be included as a KPI in his portfolio. The rationale was that this for the most part depended on the number of job opportunities actual or potential employers created, the economic cycle etc and the we were a marginal player.

    My response at the time was to ask if the budget holder would give me their £5M budget to spend elsewhere if what we we currently spending it on could not influence employment levels.

    I suspect you know the outcome.

    thanks

    Mike

    • Stacey Barr says:

      That’s a very good re-frame, Mike: “Let me use the money elsewhere then, where I CAN have an impact with it, because clearly it’s wasted here”!!

      • Richard Chappell says:

        Good points, I was always taught that the input is everything including manpower as everything needs to be factored in to ascertain the base condition and therefore the improvements ratio and matrix. I will remember that answer though as everyone seems to sit up and take notice when money is involved.

  2. Jos Röling says:

    Hi Stacey,

    This post reminded me consulting a small company struggling to get clarity. I successfully used the business model canvas from Alexander Osterwalder. This model is popular among Dutch Universities.
    Each part of the canvas is waiting for PKI’s to be defined.

    thanks

    Jos

    ps search on wikipedia for Business_Model_Canvas for the model and a short description

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Jos I’m familiar with the business model canvas. It’s a good book, and is very practical for laying out a model for a business, but probably also for any team within an organisation. I suspect you mention it here because it could help a team that struggles with feeling lack of control to see how they can exercise influence, through the design of their business approach. Thanks.

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