Tools of Innovation: The Assessment Matrix
As we’ve covered on the blog this month, one of the biggest challenges to embracing innovation is to be open to change in the first place; to encourage staff and volunteers to ask questions and explore better ways of doing things. For an organization that has operated the same way for a long period of time, just beginning to think creatively is a major obstacle to overcome.
But what happens when the good ideas start to flow, creating more quality suggestions than the organization can reasonably implement? A significant barrier to implementing change is simply opportunity cost – with limitations of staff, volunteers and financial investment, an organization is unlikely to be able to launch several new initiatives at the same time.
To help organizations at the crossroad of good ideas, PMA suggests a tool for informing decision making called an “assessment matrix.” The matrix encourages an “apples-to-apples” comparison of concepts, to the degree that is possible, across five dimensions of consideration, including:
- Mission Fit – As discussed last month, a limiting mission may need to be evaluated as well, but typically it should be used as an initial vetting instrument. Does your good idea serve your mission? To what degree?
- Financial Sustainability – A good idea without the financial resources to support it is unlikely to get very far. How can earned revenue (fee-for-service, sponsorship, investment revenue), contributed revenue (gifts) and brokered revenue (grants) be harnessed in support of the idea? Does the idea have expense control? Is it a risky venture financially?
- Market Potential – Too often, organizations make decisions without gathering substantive data regarding the market for their good ideas. Demographic analysis, competitive analysis, brand alignment and perceived value are all areas where research is needed to inform the conversation. How have you informed your decision making with external data?
- Impact – The reason to consider new ways of doing things is typically that it will have a positive impact, either directly on individuals served by the organization, or in encouraging resources that can be harnessed to support your constituencies. But not all ideas are created equal when it comes to return on investment. How do you assess programmatic impact? Fundraising? Volunteer development?
- Current/Potential Resources – Harnessing current physical and intellectual assets, including current staff and volunteers, is likely to be critical to implementing your new idea. How does your organization take stock of these assets? Keep in mind, staff can be hired and new volunteers can be sought, though that will need to be taken into consideration.
Helping organizations evolve and choose a pathway forward, PMA’s assessment matrix is a tool of change but not a decision-making instrument itself. “Tools don’t make decisions, people do.” However, ensuring you make better decisions is what PMA’s organizational development services are all about. To learn more, send Patton or Josh an e-mail.