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Theory of Change: Your secret sauce to increase the benefits from corporate programs

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

By Susan Hollett, Hollett & Sons

How does your company change workplace culture? Let’s take diversity and inclusion (D&I). How might you as the business owner improve your company’s D&I performance? You’ll probably look around to see how others have done it, then create a program, probably with many activities, assign a budget to it, and put someone in charge of implementation. Six months go by and perhaps you don’t see the change that you planned and invested in. Why not? What went wrong? Did you miss some steps? Or you see great progress – hurray! Why did that work? How can it be improved even more?

This is where program evaluation can help. Mostly used in the not-for-profit world, program evaluation has a unique methodology that takes you deep into why you think a particular intervention will work and how you know whether it has or not. (1) In this article, I want to introduce you to Theory of Change, one of the tools you can apply when you design company programs.

Theory of Change is the most frequently neglected tool in planning a program. It is unique, as it brings together your view of what you want to change, how you plan to make change, why you think that plan will work, where and how it has worked in other settings, how you will measure the change, and what other factors are at play.

Let’s use that D&I example. Say you want to enhance the D&I in your company. Here’s what your Theory of Change might look like:


Creating your Theory of Change takes time and effort. It’s often led by a planning group with consultations, outside advisors, research, and many pads of sticky notes.

The reward? A measurable program of change that is uniquely matched to your workplace, goals, and resources, and where all of the underlying assumptions and theories are clearly understood and align with your corporate values. That’s a win-win.



(1) Canada has a highly developed field of program evaluation with a credentialed professional program as well as 12+ university programs offering advanced degrees in program evaluation (see the Canadian Evaluation Society, ).


Susan Hollett, Hollett & Sons

Susan, MSc., CE, is President of Hollett and Sons Inc., a consulting firm created in Clarenville, NL, in 1996 specializing in strategic planning, group facilitation and program evaluation. Susan earned her Masters degree in Political Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science, has been professionally credentialed in Canada as a facilitator, program evaluator, management consultant, and board director and currently serves on the boards of Newfoundland Power and the Canadian Evaluation Society. For more information:,, (709) 466-1373.

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