In one of the projects I am supporting, we are going through regular activities to define and review objectives and key results. In this context, the difference between output and outcome is emphasised. Outputs are defined as features the team can develop, like a information dashboard. Outcomes are defined as business value the teams can impact, for example customer insights. In this context, the teams should focus more on the business outcome; they create more meaning for the customers and also for the team members themselves.
While this distinction as a concept is good, I feel that in practice it is sometimes difficult to grasp that distinction. In the example above, we can argue that customer insights are an output, and the outcome is the new solutions we can create based on the insight. That's why, I want to suggest that we are going deeper in discovering and defining our goals.
In problem solving, I often apply the method of the Five Whys to better understand and comprehend an issue, a challenge, an opportunity at hand. Based on the these whys, we can discover root causes and explore a wider range of reasons how we can address the problem. This helps us to find better solutions and opportunities that were not obvious at the beginning.
I think, we can apply the same method for goals, objectives and key results. We want to better understand why we are creating a specific feature. And if we are not going far enough with that understanding, we are limiting our solution horizon and constraining the meaning and purpose for the teams. On the other hand, we want to motivate and engage ourselves and the people around us.
The next time we are defining our goals and OKRs, let's ask the team what is the outcome that comes next - 5 times. For example: more customer insights > new solutions that create more customer value > more co-creation together with the customer > better solutions for the larger ecosystem.
The benefits of the Five Whys for goals are a) identify better solutions, b) create meaning & purpose, and c) cultivate more team engagement.
How do you see you can apply the five whys for your objectives?
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Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.