Saying More With Less

We’re living in an information age.  Every day we are bombarded with data, from the moment you switch off the alarm on your phone to that final glance at the screen before you go to sleep. The average person spends hours consuming and producing information daily. Attention spans are decreasing. What people need is for you to get to the point.

According to Statista, 725 minutes every day was spent consuming media in the US in April 2016. This included a huge:

  • 131 minutes on the computer,
  • 186 on your mobile, and
  • 245 minutes watching TV.

We are all busy. Nobody has time to spend searching through a document for the relevant information. It should be right there, at your fingertips. As soon as people have to work hard to find what they are looking for you risk them giving up and going elsewhere.

So here are Active Outcomes’ tips for crafting clear and concise communications. Whether you are drafting a blog post, leaflet, internal email, or a report that will run to hundreds of pages.

 1. Use plain English.

Jargon has had its day. We like to keep things simple and use plain English. Official, legal, technical, or academic language is entirely appropriate in certain circumstances, but you need to consider your audience carefully.

As they say over at The Plain English Campaign, it is easier to read, easier to write and you get your message across. Here is how they describe plain English:

“It is a message, written with the reader in mind and with the right tone of voice, that is clear and concise.”

2. Simplify your communications.

A one-on-one conversation can help avoid misunderstandings, but when this isn’t possible, you need to make sure your message comes across loud and clear.

When writing, imagine that you are talking directly to your reader. Adopt a tone of voice that will engage with your audience. If they don’t understand what you are trying to say your message will never be received.

Don’t overwhelm people with details, include lists and bullet points if you can. Use short sentences and active verbs. Make sure any charts or graphics are clear, with explanations or instructions for interpreting data if necessary.

A great tool to help with this is to simply ask someone to take a look at what you have written and check that they understand what you were trying to say. Get them to explain it back to you in their own words. You’ll see what they picked up on and what they missed or misunderstood.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” –Albert Einstein

3. Have a plan.

Before you start writing, jot down all the points you need to cover. Move these points around until they are in a logical order.

Think about what you aim to achieve, what information are you going to share, who will you target, what will the end result be? The more specific you can be, the better.

4. Don’t value a document by its weight.

It can be tempting to pad a report out so that people see all your background research and can tell at-a-glance the amount of effort you put in. Resist. A document should be as long as necessary to give relevant information. If your intended audience does not read the document you have to ask yourself what was the point.

Consider including a briefing note that outlines the contents of the report, give additional information as appendices so people can refer to the data if they choose.

5. Simplicity is deceptive.

Finding the right words to get your point across quickly, and clearly, takes time.

 “Good design is as little design as possible.” – Dieter Rams

Thinking about writing from a design perspective can help. A designer must create a product that completes various functions and takes a form that customers find both attractive and easy to use. Writing should be the same.

Basic Introduction: Writing a Constitution

What is a constitution?

A constitution sets out the aims of a community group or charity. It makes clear the rules about who can join, how the group will be run and how finances will be managed. It offers a great chance for everyone interested in getting your group up-and-running to have their say on your vision and talk through any potential issues before you get started.

Why bother? Well, there are a few reasons, it can strengthen your group by setting out clear aims that you all work toward. It can prevent any future disagreements by putting set procedures in place from the beginning. A clear constitution can also really help you out when it comes to making bids for funding and a lot of funding bodies ask to see evidence of governing documents before they are willing to proceed with assessing your grant applications.

What should I include?

The following topics tend to be included in a constitution:

  • Name of Organisation
  • Aims/Objectives
  • Powers
  • Membership
  • Meetings
  • Management Committee
  • Finance
  • Alterations to the Constitution
  • Dissolution

Of course, as this document will form the basis of how you govern your organisation, you need to adapt the content to suit your own specific needs. Take a look at examples you find online, see what similar groups or organisations have drafted for their own use and see what clauses might be useful to include in your own document when you come to write it.

Think of it as being a point on a map, you need to include accurate details to show where you are currently and what you have in place to help you remain in this position.  You can’t include every detail and it isn’t necessary to get from A to B, but you need to provide enough information so that anyone could pick up the document and see exactly who you are, how you are formed, who makes the decisions and when they do.


As we mentioned, check out a few constitutions that other groups with similar aims have drawn up for inspiration BUT don’t be tempted to just cut and paste – your constitution should be written to suit YOUR needs, not THEIRS!

Set aside time to discuss your content and to re-draft the constitution to ensure that everyone gets to have their say.

Formally adopt your constitution at a general meeting so all your members feel involved in the process. You will need two current members to sign and date it.

Constitutions don’t have to be long to be impressive. Try and keep things concise and precise. If you can, avoid any jargon too as it is meant to be a public facing document. Your readers will thank you.

It may seem strange to think about dissolution if you are just starting up your group but it is important that funders know what will happen to your assets should your group disband – and trust us, it can save a lot of arguments further down the road.

Example Constitution

This simple two-page constitution was drafted for a small community association based in Goole and covers all the bases necessary for their needs whilst remaining short and to the point.


Active Outcomes have drafted constitutions for a number of groups and organisations and if you feel you’d like to outsource the process we’d be happy to discuss your needs, get in touch via

Get Started: PEST Analysis

First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room. It is called a “PEST” but that doesn’t automatically imply that it is irritating, ok?

In fact, a PEST analysis can be a really useful tool to help you take a look at the external factors that could have an impact on your organisation. If used properly, it can really enhance your strategic planning by allowing you to understand your business position, potential for growth, direction of travel and any outside factors that may have an influence on your operations such as market decline, environmental legislation, financial regulations and infrastructure investments in your local area.

PEST is a mnemonic that stands for “Political, Economic, Social and Technological” and the framework covers macro-environmental factors that can be used to conduct environmental scanning to inform strategic planning or market research.

There are many other variants of this mnemonic, which include additional factors which may be right for your organisation to consider including too, we’ve listed these below.

  • SLEPT > Social, Legal, Economic, Political, Technological
  • PESTLE/PESTEL > Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, Environmental
  • STEER > Socio-cultural, Technological, Economic, Ecological, Regulatory
  • DESTEP > Demographic, Ecological, Social, Technological, Economic, Political
  • STEEPLE > Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Legal, Ethical
  • STEEPLED > Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Legal, Ethical, Demographic

You need to decide which of these analysis frameworks best covers all aspects of your organisation’s work, whether you use a basic PEST, or a more complex version, and then you can choose the one that best suits your needs. However, for the purposes of this blog (and keeping things simple – which is what Active Outcomes do!) we’ll be covering the basic “PEST” analysis.

Getting Started

We recommend having a bit of time set aside to complete this analysis, it can help to do a bit of background research around the various external environmental factors and so we also suggest that you work on this with your computer near at hand so you can quickly look up any potential issues as you consider them.

We also find it helps to bounce ideas around, so if you have a colleague you think would be great at helping you identify potential issues and opportunities ask them to take a look and add to your document.

A blank sheet of paper can worry some people if they have absolutely no idea where to start. So, if you already have any strategic planning documents, such as SWOT analyses, market research reports and so on, these can be a great initial source of ideas and can act as a springboard to help you get some ideas scribbled down.

Remember, when you are drafting this analysis that there are no bad ideas. The point of the exercise is to consider hypothetical situations. You are trying to foresee what might happen and unless you have a fully-functioning crystal ball (unfortunately we don’t) you are not going to correctly predict everything that may come to pass.

Completing Each Section

We’re going to go through each macro-environmental factor now and suggest a few ideas for each individual section to get you started. When completing your analysis try and be specific, for example, if you have an ageing local population with 17% more retired people than the national average include the figures. This gives you an at-a-glance reference to what the main issues/opportunities are so that you can figure out how to set about overcoming and exploiting them.


  • Current government: how stable is it, what are the priorities in their manifesto, what announcements have been made recently in the news?
  • Bureaucracy: which government departments might have an impact on your work?
  • Local government: what are the priorities for your local area, e.g. are there any planned infrastructure projects that could affect access/footfall, do you have all the correct licenses in place and when do these need renewing?
  • Tax policies: what are the rates and incentives, are there any changes in the pipeline?
  • Press freedom / priorities.
  • Regulation/deregulation.
  • Trade controls: if you import/export consider the risk of changing tariffs, restrictions on goods (quality and quantity). [The UK exit from Europe could have some serious repercussions in this particular area.]
  • Trade Unions: which ones represent your workforce, do they have any campaigns/industrial actions planned?
  • Law: what changes to any applicable laws might be happening – consider:
    • Environmental law,
    • Anti-trust law,
    • Education Law
    • Employment Law
    • Discrimination/Equality Law
    • Parental Leave / Flexible Working,
    • Competition regulations,
    • Copyright/Intellectual Property law,
    • Health and Safety,
    • Consumer Protection / eCommerce, and
    • Data protection and Information Security.


  • Growth rates: these may not seem to have a direct bearing on your business, but if the whole economy is booming you are more likely to feel the benefits.
  • Inflation: if inflation increases, the amount you (and your customers) can purchase will decrease, knock-on effects could be increased raw material prices and transport costs which you have to pass on to consumers.
  • Interest rates: whether low or high, the implications can be huge, e.g. low rates of interest are great for those who already have a mortgage but are not as helpful to the people saving a deposit to put down on a home.
  • Exchange rates: important for import/export led business.
  • Unemployment trends: this can affect the availability of skilled labour and the costs of hiring.
  • Labour costs: employees are your greatest resource (and often your biggest expenditure), look at your rate of employee retention, could you reduce staff turnover and re-train skilled members of staff to fill any gaps and reduce external hiring costs. What changes do you anticipate needing to make to your workforce?
  • Stage of business cycle: review your business plan, look at the potential for strategic growth, plan for your busy/quiet periods.
  • Credit/funding availability: when a scheme is time-limited plan ahead so that you have all the evidence needed to support an application for credit/funding within that cycle. If your funding lasts for a set period, put in place a timescale for review so that you know when to start the application process for continuation funding.
  • Trade flows and patterns: these could be disrupted due to global events.
  • Level of consumers’ disposable income: this ties in to levels of inflation, if people have less money to spend after they have paid for the basic necessities what impact could this have on your business?
  • Monetary/fiscal policies: what changes have been announced or could be on the cards?
  • Stock market trends: on the whole, the stock market is seen as being mysterious and complicated, but you can gain an insight into current market conditions by looking at the type of companies that are winning or losing and seeing why they are in that position, e.g. if an announcement is made about investment in green energy you might see a decline in traditional energy companies and an increase in more environmentally friendly ones.
  • Weather: this one may seem trivial but can have a huge impact if you rely on getting customers through your door.


  • Health: the health and well-being of local people can affect productivity and effectiveness.
  • Population: growth rates, age profiles e.g. an ageing population might mean there is a smaller workforce and a demand for different services.
  • Education: may mean there are not enough workers with the correct skill-sets.
  • Religion and beliefs: you may need to take into account various religious holidays and observances.
  • Lifestyle and buying habits: try to segment your “typical” customers to create a profile for each and see how they spend and why. What might affect this?
  • Family: e.g. what rights/regulations may change for employees with families? Can you adapt and work flexibly around family commitments?
  • Environmental/ethical: what are the prevailing attitudes toward green or ecological products and renewable energy? What options exist for you to trade more ethically/responsibly?
  • Immigration/emigration rates: do you have a diverse workforce or work internationally, could this change as a result of the EU exit? What changes might need to be put in place to ensure continuity for your workforce?
  • Work/life balance: look at attitudes toward career, leisure and retirement. Could you do more to ensure you are offering an attractive benefit package and retaining the best talent?


  • Technological change: what is likely to change within your industry and how can you keep pace?
  • Research and development: what do you need to be looking into changing now to get ahead of competitors?
  • Automation: can you improve efficiency/effectiveness by automating processes?
  • Outsourcing: is it cheaper in the long-run to outsource certain services rather than spend time struggling to compete tasks in-house?
  • Government priorities: how much is the government spending on technological research and innovation, what infrastructure are they investing in?
  • Depreciation/product lifecycle: when do you anticipate needing to replace key equipment? Do you have contingencies in place in the event of any equipment failure?
  • Internet: are you taking advantage of eCommerce opportunities, do you have the fastest possible connection package, does your website need updating, do you have to provide certain information online as a legal requirement e.g. a cookie policy?
  • Generational shifts: who is buying your product, how do they expect to interact with it? E.g. younger consumers may expect to be able to log a complaint via social media and have it responded to instantly

These suggestions are by no means exclusive, they are here to help you get started, not all of them will apply to your organisation and there will be a lot of other factors that do apply that we have not mentioned.

How to Present the Information

Here is a sample PEST Analysis we have completed for a small charity as part of an Organisational Review. As you can see, we have tried to keep it simple and visual. We have highlighted the key issues for each section and we have charted whether this is likely to have a high, medium, or low positive or negative impact.


We created this infographic using Canva and you can sign up and create designs completely free of charge online on their website.

This is not the only way to present the information: you can choose to use a table, with the titles for each section and a bullet pointed list of the factors listed underneath. Others choose to present the document in a more traditional report style format, going through each section individually and giving a greater level of explanation for each factor identified. There are pros and cons for each approach and you’ll need to identify which is the best for your particular needs.

If you need any assistance or advice about undertaking a PEST Analysis give us a shout, we’re always happy to help, visit for all of our contact details.

Cheat Sheet: Risk Logs

Managing risk is an essential part of everyday life. When planning a project, creating and maintaining a Risk Log is something we recommend you make an essential component.

It sounds like it should be complicated, right? Wrong! It needn’t be any more complicated than the example I am going to walk you through now, it’s an easy topic, one that anyone who has ever tried to plan a barbeque in Britain will be able to follow.


There are eight columns in the risk log template above:

  1. Risk – the name of the risk.
  2. Probability – the likelihood of it happening, 1 = very unlikely, 5 = certain.
  3. Impact – what will the effect on your project will be, 1 = no real issue caused, 5 = catastrophic, derailing the entire project.
  4. Risk Score – Probability Score x Impact Score = Risk Score. The lower the better.
  5. Mitigation – what could you do to manage this risk, either making it less likely to occur or preventing it having such a huge impact?
  6. Contingency – what will you do if the worst does happen?
  7. Action Owner – who is responsible for taking action to prevent the risk?
  8. When – at what point does the Action Owner need to respond?

Our example project is planning a BBQ. So we need to come up with the risks associated and then populate the table. The first risk that sprung to my mind was RAIN!


Rain is a quite a risk, but to prevent it spoiling the fun you can plan when to hold your event carefully to avoid the times of year when it is most likely to occur. You can also hire a marquee (just in case), move indoors or hand out umbrellas to guests as a contingency if the weatherman gets it wrong and it does happen to be raining on the big day.

The next image shows a few more risks at the BBQ and what can be done to manage them.



  • A Risk Log can and should be a working document, updated regularly to reflect any changing circumstances.
  • Include risks no matter how trivial they seem. One thing often leads to another and sometimes a small thing can trigger a huge unintended consequence.
  • Get as many people as possible involved in brainstorming risks to add to the log, it always helps to get a different perspective, they may spot a few things you missed.

Have a go at completing the Risk Log below to see how easy it is.


Get in touch with Active Outcomes if you’d like some more information about risk management. We’d love to chat via Twitter @ActiveOutcomes, email, or visit our website at


I’ve been wanting to write about approaching “change” for a while. With the sad news about David Bowie’s death today, it seemed like an appropriate topic.

Here was a man who lived in a constant state of artistic flux, capable of flowing between movements, genres and careers. Embracing new ideas and giving older ones a new lease of life. He committed so much to a musical concept that he would be forced to create an entirely new character to encompass it.

Change can be daunting. It can be huge, overwhelming even. It can be hard to know where to even begin. You may know something is missing, you might have an end goal in sight, but the thought of making the change can be enough to put some people off even trying.

Be brave. Commit to your idea. Throw yourself into the change, because if you want it, if it is worth your effort, you’ll find the time to make it happen. That’s how I got started working as a freelancer, setting up Active Outcomes, I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to write for a living. It hasn’t been the easiest path, sometimes I wish I was working for someone else, that I could leave the office at the end of the day and switch off from everything. (An almost impossible task when you are running your own business!)

So in honour of David Bowie, a man who inspired me (and probably a lot more people around my age) from the moment I watched The Labyrinth as a kid – here are my thoughts on bringing about change, quoting the lyrics of David Bowie’s ‘Changes’.


“Still don’t know what I was waitin’ for…”

The first step is the hardest. You want to achieve something. You can write another to-do list, or you can stop procrastinating and take the first step.

Break down your goal so that it is in smaller, more manageable chunks. If your first task will take five minutes, for example, you want to run your idea by a collague and need to set up a quick meeting, you’ll have that one done today. If you can achieve something quickly you’ll feel far more motivated to keep on racking up those quick wins. With your head down solving the problem you’ll see the progress you’re making rather than the stack of work and potential obstacles ahead.

“Turn and face the strange…”

When you’re not working on a specific task – try and anticipate any obstacles before you run straight into them. Plan how you’ll overcome them. Brainstorm as many ideas/solutions/issues as you can think of. You may never need these ideas, but you’ll feel a whole lot better knowing you have them in your back pocket. Plus, sometimes it just feels good to let rip with your creativity and throw a few wild ideas around. What’s the worst that can happen?

“A million dead end streets…”

Test your ideas. Ask around. Chances are, others will have made the mistakes and can point you in the direction of a solution, or at least tell you where the pitfalls are. Be flexible. If at first you don’t succeed that doesn’t mean it’s not still worth pursuing your goal. There isn’t usually a straight path between points A and B. Besides, you tend to learn a lot more on the scenic route.

“Every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet…”

If it isn’t going well, get some perspective. Step away from the problem. Better yet, get someone else to take a fresh look at it. If they are completely new to your issue they might pick up on something you’ve missed because you’re too close to the problem. I find explaining an idea to someone with absolutely no prior knowledge helps me to understand and describe it in clear and simple terms. It is far too easy to overcomplicate things when you are bogged down in a process fighting against the way you’ve always done something.

Adapt. Be willing to strike an idea off the list, even if it was your favourite. If it isn’t working, there is no sense clinging to it, working around it or tweaking it so that it fits a bit better. You need to define what is good enough. If you have a solution that only just solves the problem, if you look at it sideways, with your head tilted at a certain angle, then it probably isn’t the best possible option. You’ll save yourself a lot more time and trouble down the line if you admit that you need to go back to the drawing board to get the change you need made.

“So I turned myself to face me…”

Following on from the last point, it helps to periodically take stock of what you are doing to achieve your goal and why you are making this change. Life is complicated, things change, priorities shift on a day-to-day basis. Understanding the change, what it involves and why it is important to you can help motivate you to push on and achieve it. If you’re running out of steam, visualising the end result can get you back in gear. If you are no longer filled with an all-consuming passion to get this change made it will help to understand what has happened in the meantime.

One thing that is certain is that change is hard. If you are managing a big change that impacts on others, either personally or professionally, you can feel crushed by their resistance to your ideas. I’ve always found that the best antidote to this is passion. If you can get other people to share your enthusiasm, if you can convince them of the potential reward and invite them to take the journey with you, you’ll make your job a lot easier.

You have to be the biggest cheerleader for your change, you have to live and breathe it, you have to get others excited by the idea and make sure that they know you are the person to see if they want to help make it happen. Throw yourself into it. Genuine enthusiasm is contagious. It might not be the way things have always been, but trailblazers like Bowie never let a thing like that stop them did they? And look at the legacy he has left in his wake.


If you need help managing change, or if you just want to talk through a problem, Active Outcomes can help. Contact us today for more information.