Tools for causing impact


One silly badly written planning matrix

One silly badly written planning matrix

More impact through coordinated planning

We all want to cause impact with our actions but sometimes we don’t have the experience or tools needed to manage our actions. Mozillians are very good at causing impact as can be seen by our actions around the world. In this brief post we’ll add one extra tool to our repository with which we’ll break our desire to make impact into manageable and mensurable bits. There are many tools and workflows we can use, this is just a tool that you can adapt to your own usage.

The main advantage of using this tool is that it allows you to plan for the impact you want to promote and also to be sure you achieved it. In this sense this is not only good for your future actions but also for metrics. The Participation Team uses OKRs for its planning which can be easily extracted from these matrices :-)


Planning matrices

The tool presented here is called Logical Planning Matrix but we’ll short it to planning matrix. This is an adaptation of other more complex matrices used by ITS Rio (Rio Institute for Technology and Society) to suit our community.

These matrices (like all matrices) have columns and rows. Each row lists a future objective (impact) and the columns lists actions, metadata, metrics and indicators about such objective. This matrix is a very good medium to visualize your plans and goals when prepared carefully.

Simple Planning Matrix (3 columns)

Lets begin with the simplest matrix which is the 3 columns version. Below we have an excerpt from a planning matrix used at a Web Development tech event here in Brazil.

| Objective | Action | Indicator of Success | |—————————————————————————————————|————————————————-|————————————————————————————————| | Make people aware that Mozilla promotes community efforts and is present at the event and region. | Have our brand displayed all over the event. | People engaging with us to talk about Mozilla. | | Show the community that Mozilla is present in the Northeast region. | Our brand and name on newspaper articles and TV | More people wanting to talk to us and know more about our projects in the region. | | Establish Mozilla as expert on web development | Our talk at the event | People talking at the event and on social networks about our topic. | | Make people aware of our recent projects and tools | Demos at the booth | Increase the downloads for Firefox for Android, Firefox Developer Edition and Firefox for iOS. | | Recruit new volunteers | Demos at the booth | New people from the region joining our community mailing list | | Recruit new volunteers | Giving a Workshop | New people from the region joining our community mailing list |

In this version the columns are:

  • Objective: Our goal for that planning. In this case it was an event, so what were our goals for that event.
  • Action: What action leads to that goal. If there is more than one action that leads to the same goal then you use multiple rows.
  • Indicator of Success: How we’ll measure our success, or, what consequence of our action is a positive outcome. This is the metrics part where we provide tangible ways for measuring if we achieved an specific goal/objective or not.

This is a very simple matrix but when planned carefully is a powerful tool to visualize stuff. You can use it for planning “one of a kind events” or for planning your community strategy for the next six months. How large or small you want to go is just a matter of focus. You can even use multiple matrices as having one big picture matrix with your medium-term goals and lots of small picture matrices for each event, action or project and contributes to the large big picture one.

Complex Planning Matrix (6 columns)

Now we present a more complex, or complete, matrix that we can use when planning our actions. This is an excerpt of an older version of our planning matrix for Rio Mozilla Clubs project (this was created before Mozilla Clubs were a thing so we were bundling our activities under the webmaker umbrella).

| Specific Objective | Specific Result | Strategy | Goals & Indicators | Activities | Budget | |————————————————————————————————————————|—————————————————-|———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————|———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————|———————————————————————————————————————————————|———| | O1: Revitalize Lan Houses into community spaces focused on the creation and learning of independent digital skills | Create a network of makerspaces in the Lan Houses. | Create a Lan House network uniting owners, local users and webmaker groups. We should strive to make these local networks self-sustainable (aka not dependable/locked on/to us) | Lan House owners organizing a distributed parallel event together on their own thus fostering their independence and skill to self-organize events and contribute with one another. | • Map and build the potential Lan House network

• Identify possibilities and difficulties in the Lan Houses of Rio (Lauras report) | - | | O2: Change the user profile from a media consumer to a web creator. | Users empowered and able to create web content. | • Promote and spread knowledge about maker culture.

• Run workshops where users acquire new digital skills and confidence. | Field research done by Lan House owners targeting workshop attendees where we plan to verify that 60% of the users feel able to produce content on the web and that at least 4 users have created new web content outside of the workshops. | Run webmaker workshops and events. | - |

This is a more complex matrix with more fine grained control over the column items, lets explain each column:

  • Specific Objective: Where do we want to go? This column is analogous to the one on the 3-rows version except that it should list very specific goals, there is no space here for broad statements such as keep the web free and open.
  • Specific Result: How do we know if we reached our objective? What is our succesful outcome.
  • Strategy: How we plan to get there? By which means, actions, do we go from having an objective to reaching our objective.
  • Goals & Indicators: What we’ll deliver in a SMART way (specific, measurable, ambitious, responsible and time bound)? This is the tricky one because its not about just having some indication of success its about having a mensurable indication of success, something that can be put into numbers or charts that we can use to plot how well or bad was our journey. The key part of this column is the SMART piece where our indicators and goals need to fill as many the qualities listed inside those parenthesis as possible.
  • Activities: Describe the main steps and the detailed path to accomplish each goal.
  • Budget: Budget needed for the row.

This matrix is a bit more complicated to build but also provides you with more information for your visualizations purpose. It provides good numeric output for metrics and charts. It helps plan your budget allocation. With this version you can easily plot charts to measure your project while it is still going on and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Growing your planning matrix

In my opinion you don’t build or construct planning matrices. Those matrices are living things that change over time and are a product of many hands. In my humble opinion you grow them and then you nurture them towards a healthy state where they reflect what you all plan to do over time.

First step: Visualization of broad goals

The first step in building your own matrix is deciding if you want to do the 3-rows, the 6-rows or remix the amount of rows for your own workflow. After deciding which rows you need to fills you need to talk to your team to decide what your general objectives are. These are not the objectives that go into the matrix, they serve as a broad visualization of what you all plan to accomplish.

Second step: objectives and results, break them like bread

With your broad objectives at hand, break them all into specific objectives. Its like your broad objective is making pizza, then you break it into stuff such as getting each ingredient, preparing dough, heating oven and so on.

Also after having your specific objectives, identify what the specific results are. Each goal is always paired with a result. Its fairly easy to find results from objectives but it is an important part of the visualization process so do it careful and iterate over your results to see if they can be made better.

Third step: Strategy, or plans A, B up to Z

Now its time to spend a lot of time thinking what is your strategy including plan A, B and Z. Its not enough to say stuff such as Lets go to France and think that your strategy is We’ll take a plane. Where will you take the plane? What if it is overbooked? What visas are needed? Can someone speak French in your team? The more questions you ask yourself and the more answers you have, the better it is.

Do not make a single strategy, do not place all your eggs into a single basket, you need contingency plans for individual points in your strategy but also for the strategy as a whole. If your goal was getting into France and your whole strategy depended on planes and they were all grounded then what would you do? Could you take a train? Ferry? There are more than one way of reaching your specific goals, identify them. This step is where no matter how much time you spend on it you could always use a bit more.

Fourth step: getting SMART

With your objetives, results and strategies in place, you need to find the SMART indicators and goals. Lets explain the SMART way in terms of goals and indicators:

  • Specific: Your indicators/goals need to be focused with a tight scope.
  • Measurable: They need to be something you can measure, don’t use stuff such as “having happy users” because you can’t really measure this, instead use stuff such as “having 70% of our users respond with happy in our post-event survey”
  • Ambitious: Shoot for the moon but also plan how to get there in a proper and realistic way. If you plan to have a überhuge impact and end up with a just huge impact that is still OK! people are still happy!!! Not meeting your goals doesn’t mean failure but planning for extremely conservative goals that are easy to pick will not realize your potential! You can do more than you think you can! You are awesome!
  • Responsible: Double meaning here, you need to identify who or which group is responsible for this goal and indicators but you also need to make sure your goals and indicators are responsible. If your indicator is have 300 new translations of MDN articles done by the end of the week and you do that by overworking volunteers then you are not being responsible. Plan your goals and indicators in a responsible way and delegate them to someone.
  • Time bound: This prevents stuff such as and they lived happily ever after. Your goals and indicators need to have some time box set aside for them. There should be a date when you should meet your goal or not. Without a time bound goal and indicator, stuff just go on forever (cue: Brazilian Government construction works with infinite time to completion).

Fifth step: Activities & Budgeting

By this time you know all about your objectives, results, strategy and measurements. All that is left is planning the micro details of which actions will be taken and by whom. Use as much time as needed to plot the path towards your strategies with actions, activities and checkpoints. If the objective was getting to France then in this step you’d plan all your actions towards that plan and how much each would cost.

For example, if we’re building a matrix to spread Web Literacy as our broad, big picture goal and one of the specific objectives was to teach people Why Web Literacy is important then you could plan activities such as blog posts, newspaper articles, pieces on other sites by third-party, workshops in major tech events, word of mouth information dispersal inside the circle made by the friends of community members.

Some activities will not have a budget but all activities should have someone accountable/responsible for them. You always need a name or group of names that you can call and check on what is going on with a specific activity or action. You CANNOT place everyone in your team collectively responsible for an activity, this doesn’t work. All of you can act, plan and execute the activity together but someone (or a subset of your team) needs to be accountable. Do not fall for the too many chiefs in the kitchen nightmare

Sixth step: iterate over time! (aka no plan is perfect, or, the captain said pivot!)

When creating matrices for long term planning such as your six-months plan for your local community, Mozilla Club or personal project, you will notice that after sometime reality will start to deviate from whatever dream you’ll have spread on that matrix. Things will change, strategies will fail, activities will be awesomer then planned. The only thing I can guarantee you is that somewhere in your matrix there will be at least one item that will need changing after your plan is put into use.

Planning matrices are not a contract! They are not something written in stone that can’t be fixed or changed as times flies by. Sometimes you will be over optimist when creating the matrix and once you start executing your plans you will notice that what you thought was a moonshot was actually an andromeda shot and also impossible. Another thing that happens is that you are over pessimistic with your planning and you start overpassing your goals and indicators with such success that they are not longer useful. Most of the times, what happens is a combination of these two scenarios where parts of your matrix are an astounding success and others are not real. Whatever the case, you can take a step back and revise your matrix.

Think of a river with one margin being the successful outcome and the other margin being the failure outcome. Your matrix should be a boat travelling in the middle of this river so that the crew can visualize both sides of the river. If the boats just jumps out of the water and starts hopping in dry land on any of the margins, its time to take a step back and build a new river to go where the boat is going… err… not the best analogy but I believe you got the meaning.

Anyway, there is also strategies and goals that change over time such as when you realize that what you were doing is leadership development and not just empowering people with new digital skills. As you constantly visualize your matrices and execute your strategy over time you will come to a new understanding about your objectives and plans, this may require changing your matrix.

Changing your matrix is not a sign of failure, its just a new comprehension about the reality you are facing and planning ahead. It is just course correction, all planes and boats do that regardless of their travel plans.

Conclusion and Feedback Request

I hope this little tool will help you get to France, the Moon, Andromeda or towards wherever you want to go. If this tools is useful to you or you remix it in anyway, please, come back to me and tell me your story. We want to learn more about how our Mozillians are planning and executing their actions and this tool might just be another cool resource at your disposal.

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