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Friday, June 17, 2011

Objectives and Outcomes

Frank Strickland gave a talk at CTMH this week that defined, clarified, and corrected one of the most common destructive organizational behaviors.

Picture this: You’re in a development meeting, or a sales meeting, or a deployment meeting, and a ranking member, often from outside the team, starts grinding for some unknowable information.

“When will you complete the module?”

“How many sales will you have by the end of the month?”

“How many people will be on the floor?”

There is an easy first answer...whatever the plan says. Where the meeting breaks apart is when the suit wants other proof, different proof. We spend an extra 70 minutes of a planned hour rotating in a tight circle.

Worse, if you figure every group meeting is an expensive opportunity to improve group performance, we’ve just lost that opportunity. A Sales Lab Status Meeting is designed to make everyone better at their job, every time, so a hijacked meeting puts the group back a least.

As Frank explains it, the suits want to spend the time constructing a satisfying (for them) prediction of an outcome, the troops need to focus on completing their objectives.

There’s a common lack of validity in any prediction, so after the first prediction, there isn’t much value gained in the subsequent ones. It’s like chopping an onion in smaller pieces to get more onion.

Under pressure, management often finds out they don’t like their plan, but the last week of the month isn’t the time to stop and fix that.

Here’s Frank’s revelation: The outcome is achieved by executing the objectives. You don’t manage to the outcome. You manage to the objectives that gets you the outcome. Think of the guy who threw his back out steering his bowling ball as it went down the alley. Wrong model.

Outcomes are produced from achieving objectives.

If the suits want increase earnings per share, the troops better commence delighting their customers.

If the suits want more sales, the troops better commence their 20 meetings a month and two blog posts a week.

If the suits want deeper deployment, the troops better concentrate on better planning and improved safety.

Most of the hallucination about outcomes wastes the precious time available to improve achieving objectives. It’s the suits’ lack of confidence rising to the top.

Concentrate on achieving objectives.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

John F. Kennedy said the USA would put a man on the moon within the decade. He left it to the rocket scientists and others to set objectives to reach that outcome. The country provided resources needed and stayed out of the way.

Before the 10 year clock had wound down we put a man on the moon and brought him home safely.

Imagine how the result is the declaration were diluted by a task list or a series of progress meetings for second guessing the doers. We could still be working on it today.

Speak the outcome and let the folks who are paid to get the results - get results. For us mere mortals, let's focus on the objective and deliver.