The Measure of Impact

All of the work that we do at SGA falls into sort of an interesting trap.

Our core objective is to get out there and have an impact for our clients by developing great programs that really speak to residents throughout the State. At the same time, our clients need us to measure that impact so they can prove on up the chain that the program really was great. But of course, every dollar spent on measurement is a dollar taken away from impact and, sometimes, it is really, really hard to measure at all.

The trap isn’t all that unique and most likely every job falls into the trap at some point. If you’ve ever had to track time to prove you are using time efficiently or spend time to document productivity or even write a report—you’re demonstrating that you can turn your time into results (through a process that takes time and doesn’t lead to more results).

So what’s the answer? Do what doctors do.

Doctors figure out how important something is to measure (How many people will contract this? How damaging is it? Can we even cure it?) and weigh that against how costly it is to measure (How expensive is the test? Does it hurt? How long does it take? What is the rate of false-positives?). The answer to that balancing act helps them figure out who, what, and how they should test.

That is exactly what we did with our annual client survey. We used to send out a behemoth of a survey, trying to understand every single way we could better serve our clients. We got some great feedback that we took to heart, but we usually got feedback from the same folks each time.

So we changed it up. Now we just ask one question to understand how we’re doing. The question, “What is the likelihood that you would recommend SGA to a friend or colleague?,” is part of a little formula called the Net Promoter Score that the experts say is the single best indicator of performance.
The reason it works is that you get a lot more feedback from a lot more people. Instead of getting really in depth answers from our clients who are answering out of a sense of obligation because they like us, we get answers from everyone. The volume of data is a better measure even though it is much less data.

We try and build that same strategy into our work—find a metric that not only shows impact, but one that we can measure without having to jeopardize that impact. It isn’t always easy to find, but, when we get there, they lead to the best projects. The trick, though, is knowing at the beginning that you need to actively look for it.