Outcome Directed Thinking
New Organization of Intuitive Decision-Making
The concepts of decision-making will be delved into in a later chapter, but you will be faced with a number of tasks and decision dilemmas during the time between now and then. So, to provide you with some suggestions that may make the processes more successfully navigated, we are going to learn about a method for organizing the group task in such a way that goals are more positive in their outcomes. We are going to discuss Outcome-Directed Thinking or ODT as a method of process that works.
A home-owner several years ago had a plumbing problem. He called a plumber who came to his house and walked around. He listened to the walls and floors. He listened to the pipes under the sinks and behind the toilets. He took about an hour to complete this examination. He went to his truck, pulled out a wrench and went to the pipes under the bathroom sink. He reared up and made one very hard smack on the pipe. He then got up and presented a bill to the home-owner that read:
The home-owner was livid. He berated the plumber and demanded an itemized bill to justify $3,000 in cost. The plumber returned to his truck, fiddled a little and returned to give the home-owner this bill:
The point was clear: The action was effective and efficient because of the knowledge of where the root problem was and what was the most direct positive activity to address the desired outcome. Instead of spending time and effort on patching symptoms of the problem, the plumber went directly for the root cause. This is the same philosophy of organizational management we should have to ensure our firm's most effective and efficient success.
The ODT concept, studied and taught at the University of Georgia Center for Leadership, is based on a well-defined motivation:
To make this easier to appreciate we can translate motivation to the Critical Leadership Skills inherent in the process:
As Bob Bostrom, originator of the ODT approach, has said, "Once you have helped someone set a compelling outcome, you have already started the change process because his/her brain will organize conscious and unconscious resources to achieve it."
Observations of organizations would suggest that most organizational activity is based on a problem-solving need. The problem-orientation results in a number of characteristics that affect the way the firm operates and its culture. The problem orientation focuses on the following:
The result of this approach is a decidedly negative set of characteristics:
On the other hand, the outcome-oriented focuses on:
Using this approach, the characteristics of outcome are:
The key to ODT is to adopt a thinking process focused on movement from the present state to a desired state (outcomes) Although this sounds not much different from a problem-solving orientation, in practice it is a major difference in outcomes and the process to reach them.
In operation, the first change in philosophical approach is to flip the defined situation from a problem orientation to an output orientation. This requires a conscious effort to think in positive terms about what situation will be in place after implementation of a solution. Where this is different is that the problem may be related to a symptom while the desired outcome is related to the root cause of the situation. This is a profound difference in thinking about the firm's situation.
Study this closely to ensure you understand the guidance to the process it is suggesting.
To apply the ODT concept to organizational or individual decision-making needs, the process creates an Outcome Map. This MAP represents the steps to create a plan of action that is motivational and specific in action for most effectiveness and efficiency.
Creation of the map begins at the middle line, the current focus. This illustrated map show four boxes representing different current situations in the organization. An organization may have many more situations at planning time, or less.
Once the current situations are identified, additional thought must be applied to determine if the situations are symptoms or root causes. For example, the situation of late deliveries is a symptom of the productivity situation. If the root cause is changed, the symptoms will go away. Addressing the symptoms without addressing the root cause will never result in a satisfactory outcome.
Using one of the threads as an example, we must first "flip" the current focus statement to a positive outcome statement.
The next step requires each situation to be analyzed for what it means. The process begins to go up in the map. The first level is for the each person in the decision-making group to ask himself or herself, "What does addressing this situation successfully mean to me?" Does it mean "personal satisfaction"? Does it mean a potential raise? Does it mean a potential promotion? Does it mean impressing the bosses? What of importance does it me to me?
A person working on this project might say, "It means a good job done." This would be based on what's important to that individual. If he or she truly believes this statement, then he or she is motivated for behavior to accomplish the outcome. Another person might say, "This will impress the boss." And others may have other statements. But each now has a motivation to achieve the outcome.
At the next level, the group asks a question, "What does this mean to us?" Discussion will arrive at a consensus statement of what is important to the group. They may believe solution will impress the boss. Solution may mean a raise. Solution may mean they can keep their jobs. Whatever the statement is, it represents an idea that is important to everyone in the group. And with the agreed upon idea, everyone is motivated to achieve the outcome.
This analysis continues upward at each level of the organization until it reaches a level for the overall organization.
Here the resulting statement is assessed against the organization's mission statement to enusre that the activity does contribute to the mission.
If the motivation process does not end in a statement that supports the organization's mission, then the current situation is not one that the organization should pursue. When this process is completed, the team has motivation to work to accomplish the outcome at the individual, group, and organizational level. This motivation should result in member commitment, desire, and behavior to successfully complete the task. With motivation in place, the process shifts to create the action plan.
For the action plan, the solutions steps are defined. At the first downward level the group determines the primary barrier to accomplish the target situation. In this case, the group may determine that the primary barrier is low revenue income.
The group now decides what the primary step would be to overcome the barrier. In this case, that might be to increase sales.
So we ask the question, "What stops us from achieving the solution?"
In analyzing a barrier, we might decide it's a small sales staff. How do we overcome that? We hire more sales people. What prevents us from doing this? Budget must be arranged. What prevents us? Increase working capital. What prevents us? No resources. How do we overcome? Seek Bank Loan. What prevents us from achieving this? Nothing. So we have established a set of steps we need to accomplish our desired outcome. We now know the first step is to see our banker and arrange for a line of credit. Once that is done, then we can address each level of barrier until we reach our desired outcome.
An example of the technique is the U.S. Space program's early days. President Kennedy at the State of the Union Address in 1961 announced that the U.S. would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, nine years away. This came as a shock to the space program scientist because up until then the program had been a dismal failure with crashed rockets, rabid competition between the army and the navy, and being whipped by the Russian.
So the scientists got together and said (this is conjecture and hyperbole for illustration), "We must land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, which we will define as Dec. 31, 1969 (although Dec. 31, 1970 was actually the end of the decade)." To give us some breathing room in the event we are not successful in our first attempt, let's say we must land on the moon by June 31, 1969. And if that doesn't work, we have an additional six months to try again." They thought to themselves, "What does this mean to me?" Each thought, "What prestige and honor I'll receive." They asked as a group, "What does this mean to us?" They came to a consensus, "It means NASA will be a success and will get funding for other projects." They asked, "What does this mean for the country?" And they answered, "We beat the Russians in a major space objective." They had their motivation at all levels. And they believed!!!!
So they asked the question, "What prevents us from achieving our objective?" From there they went through the process of identifying what blocked them in every step and what they needed to do to overcome the barrier at each step until they got down to what was the first step, "Develop a proposal for funding." More importantly, they worked backward from their event date of June 31, 1969 to determine by what date they had to accomplish overcoming each barrier until they reached the first step and the date by which that had to be completed to be a base for all other activity and achievements. The had their action plan!!
This is the Outcome Directed Thinking approach to planning and implementation.
Pay particular attention to this concept. You'll be asked to prepare an ODT Map for your Flash Reports to be submitted with the Flash Report White Papers and discussed in your Flash Report VC presentations.