SUMMARY: What’s this post about? Desired outcome vs. goals. Lack of vision. Shared planning vs. one leader & how rigid processes can breakdown progress, prevent success and become a barrier to making a profound product or service.
Rather than bore you with a product or business problem let’s use a real life example, something fun and relevant. Let’s say our goal is to have a family game night. Our goal is achieved if we successfully host family game night.
Okay, pretty high level.
Now let’s talk outcomes.
Let’s say your priority for desired outcome is: the entire family has fun. The difference in desired outcomes and goals when it comes to the ultimate vision is that we can accomplish the goal (completing a family game night) without achieving the desired outcome (everyone has fun).
Obviously the ideal scenario is that the goal is accomplished in conjunction with the desired outcome. Our ultimate vision in this case is to have a family game night (goal) where everyone has fun (outcome). The goal is not the desired outcome, the goal is a means to the outcome. Whatever goes into successfully reaching this would be up to the family.
Here are some ways the family may approach planning for the goal while actually failing to reach that desired outcome.
Scenario 1: Dad makes mom do all the planning and preparation of game night. She makes tons of snacks that her kids and husband love but fails to tailor anything to herself, including game choices. She was too exhausted to participate in all the games. Goal will still be achieved. They had a family game night. But outcome failed: mom did not have fun. (Issue to address: One leader vs. shared planning.)
Scenario 2: Mom and dad plan together and they developed a strict schedule so they could get to each and every game they planned. The kids loved the first game but didn’t really enjoy the other five. Mom and dad wanted to stick to the schedule (the process, the plan) but with each new game the kids complained a bit more (feedback). They wished they could have just kept playing the first game. Again the goal was achieved, they had a family game night. And great, the process and plan was played out accordingly, like mom and dad wanted. But the kids didn’t have fun, the desired outcome failed. (Issue to address: Flexibility in process + empathy (listening to feedback).
Scenario 3: The family planned the game night together. Everyone picked a game and the plan was to alternate. However, there was a disagreement early on, dad wanted to follow all the exact rules of each game while mom wanted to loosen up the rules (tailoring to younger son). There was no vote (lack of compromise) and dad made the ultimate decision to follow rules meticulously. During the third and fourth games their younger son struggled with the complexity of the math. Dad ended up yelling at his son, who left the room crying. Mom got mad at dad for his rigid rule following and lack of support. Dad got mad at mom for disagreeing with the rules and questioning his authority. Again in this scenario the goal was achieved, the game night happened. But was the desired outcome achieved? No, nobody ended up having fun. (Issue to address: Shared planning + tailoring for different people + flexibility in process).
Lesson: You can define a perfectly fine goal. You can have great leaders and a great plan. The process you follow could look great on paper. But if you are not flexibility to the needs of the people you’re working with and are designing for, if you are too rigid with the rules for how to achieve that goal, you simply won’t achieve your desired outcome.
Now here’s a possible scenario. What if the parents agreed to let the kids plan? What if they come up with a loose schedule of ideas but were open to improvise. Let’s play that out..
Scenario 4: Adults let kids plan multiple games (shared planning), but once they got playing they realized everyone was laughing and smiling much more with the second game (feedback). So they forgot the other 4 games altogether (flexibility) and allowed the second game to continue. One of the game rules was tripping everyone up, so they tossed out that rule (listening/empathy). Everyone was having so much fun! Which was the ultimate vision, the desired outcome. No one got upset by the plan changing because everyone had fun. So the night was a success! Both the goal and the desired outcome was achieved. Lesson: The planned process may have changed, but ultimately it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
What can this tale tell you about how your team plans: how rigid or how flexible your process is and ultimately how well defined your goals are vs. your desired outcomes? Are your goals too vague, are outcomes clearly defined? Is there room for more shared planning? More empathy and listening to feedback? More pivoting? Less rigidity in process?
Throughout my career I have witnessed a little bit of it all. My suggestion is to plan as a team, but be extremely open to flexibility, to listen and to learn, and to get less upset when a process or plan is not followed to a tee, and more proud when reaching goals leads to your desired outcomes. That’s the sweet spot.
Remember, goals are a means to outcomes, not outcomes in and of themselves. Dig deeper! What is the profound change, or product, or experience, or service you’re trying to build? Don’t let the mere goal of building it drive how your team does the work. Let the desired outcomes guide your process.
I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. Thanks for stopping by!
Contact info & more about me here.