Do your organization a favor: assess your programs so you can innovate your programs. I know, outcomes are central to what you monitor in terms of the impact of your work, and outcomes are being used by your funders to accurately evaluate the impact of their gifts and the probability of continuing to fund your work.

Keep measuring the outcomes of your organization’s current programs, but begin to look at your programs from a different perspective – a perspective that moves from outcomes to one, that I call, “how comes.”  

“How comes” are centered in a curiosity to learn more about your programs in order to repeat, refine, remove or reinvent your programs. Using the following five techniques, take time to review each of your organization’s programs from a “how comes” point-of-view:

Watching: Understanding your programs through watching is an effective way to identify “how comes” and ultimately bring innovation to your programs. By watching, you’ll begin to see firsthand how your work gets done, who’s doing it, where it happens, how it happens and why it happens. 

Asking: The next technique beyond watching is asking. Take time to ask everyone that is impacted and involved in your program’s questions about the experience as well as the operational aspects. Understanding how your programs make the people feel that are engaged in them is equally important as how they rate them.

Exploring: With watching and asking completed, your team will now have enough information to begin exploring on what would make your programs better – or, what new programs could be introduced to fill a void. Of course, watch and question your program to know if it’s worth repeating, revising, removing or reinventing.

Connecting: While your staff is busy watching, asking and exploring, make certain someone (most likely the organization’s leader) is connecting with leaders of similar programs in your city and around the country. This effort will provide insights that can be embedded into your programs to make them even more effective.

Threading: Different than connecting with like organizations, leadership should be threading the organizations’ programs so they complement one another. These may be entire programs or parts of programs that could be integrated to make an organization’s programs better.

Program innovation will come from watching, asking, exploring, connecting and threading. Find time to innovate through “how comes” that will most certainly improve your organization’s outcomes.