April 20, 2020

Research shows that more than 80% of executives prefer in-person conversations with co-workers if it involves strategic thinking, and face-to-face meetings are 34 times more successful than virtual meetings. But that has changed almost overnight, and the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the predominant method by which we relay our best, highest-stakes ideas. Now, the ability to effectively communicate ideas in writing has never been more important. Whether garnering support for a pitch or demonstrating a program’s impact, it’s important to remember a few foundational rules-to-write-by.

The following guidelines detail an approach to composing mission impact statements in order to gain enough support to make progress on entrepreneurial efforts.

To convey impact well, think “compelling” over “comprehensive.” Do not focus on what you did or how you did it; instead focus on why it matters. After all, few people care about the design and manufacturing of the race car – they only care that the driver won the race. Everything you communicate should answer three questions: 

"What did I achieve?"
"What does it mean?"
"Why does it matter?"

Guidelines for effectively writing impact statements:

1. Identify mission objectives or strategic priorities

This will be the basis for the work you highlight. It answers the question, “Where does your organization want you to focus your efforts?” It may be sourced from strategy documents or is a targeted outcome for a problem you’ve identified.


2. Choose activities that align with those objectives or outcomes

Select only your day-to-day activities that are relevant to the objectives – not everything you did – to draw a clear connection between your work and the mission.

3. Make sentences or bullets short, clear, and accurate

Write as if the audience has no connection to your work to ensure your message is easily understood. Avoid loaded or imprecise language (i.e., buzzwords) and commas whenever possible.

4. Use active, not passive voice

Writing in active voice showcases what you achieved, not the work that happened to you. For example, “Six problems were identified” is not as effective as, “We identified six problems.”

5. Use numbers or metrics

Mathematical data and figures provide concrete, unbiased evidence of your work. Weave in increases in percentages or costs over time to validate your ideas.

6. Emphasize impact first and details later

Allow your reader to see the forest through the trees – they may have limited time to absorb the message or may not read past the first sentence.

Now, to build your sentence:

  • Start by listing the ACTIONS that you've taken that align to your mission objectives;
  • From there, determine which KEY RESULTS relate to the actions/activities;  
  • Then determine the IMPACT on the mission based on the key results.  


We've attached a table of common actions, key results, and impacts at the bottom of this page if you need some inspiration.

Column 1: ACTIONS that align with your objectives.

Column 2: KEY RESULT relates to each activity. 

Column 3: The applicable IMPACT of each key result.


  • Now use the below formula to build your sentences or bullets (remember to start with IMPACT).

Here are some examples to help you build your sentence:

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center’s Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief team [improved response time by 40%] (IMPACT) for emergency response teams by [increasing the speed and accuracy of identifying flood levels] (KEY RESULT) during a natural disaster. The team [aggregated data and trained a model] (ACTIONS) to identify and predict flood lines through analysis of rainfall, topography, and temporal overhead imagery.  


The innovation team [aligned team innovation efforts to the Director’s mission objectives] (IMPACT) by rapidly [identifying three problems on which to focus] (KEY RESULT). They [conducted 50 interviews to refine 10 problems, identified factors that made five problems unsolvable, categorized the remaining problems] (ACTIONS) according to the objectives and prioritized those which could deliver the greatest mission impact. 

Conclusion:

  • Using these guidelines, you can tie any fast and lean innovation activity to achieving any outcome as quickly and cheaply as possible.
  • Doing so will increase speed and minimize spent resources (funding, personnel, influence, etc.) when attempting to solve a problem. 
  • Writing and speaking about your work in a succinct way will validate your efforts and help you garner support for your projects.