water drops and ripple - small

The Splash and Ripple image can be used to further understand how the different Results Based Management terms work together. The image involves a person standing over a pond holding a rock.

The person drops the rock into the pond creating a splash and then ripples. Inputs are the person and the rock; the output is the splash and the ripples are the various levels of outcomes.

The image conveys the following key ideas: 

1. The splash covers a small area, as compared to the ripple – this suggests that an activity and its output involves a relatively limited number of people but that, just as a splash becomes a ripple, the influence of the activity and its output spreads beyond the initial group of participants.

Trainees, for example, take their new knowledge and skills back to their workplaces and begin to influence the routines of others. It is the zone of the ripples where real development transformation takes place.

2. People carrying out a project have considerable control over the use of inputs, activities and outputs – i.e. up to when the splash occurs in the pond. But after that, they have decreasing control.

3. This is because ripples take their course, but the course they take is influenced by other disturbances in the pond – in real life, the pond is rarely calm.

Phil in front of S&R image (old)

This is not to say that we have no influence at all on the ripples; we have some, but it decreases the more the ripple works outward to become an ultimate outcome. Indeed, when it comes to the Ultimate Outcome, all we can do is contribute to that result.

4. Despite not being able to manage 100% for the results (or ripples), the more we know about the ripple effect of our work, the more we can refine the activities to get the development results we need.

We can alter or add to our activities or, to put it another way, drop the rock in differently, change its size, or change the number of rocks we have to drop in. Thus monitoring becomes especially important.


Splash and Ripple – an Image to Assist in Design and Navigation