In & Out
There I was, sitting at a friend's office. The place reeked start-up bustle and it was 'notching up good numbers', I was told. Time flew a supersonic jet speed as we spoke of his business, possibilities, challenges and such else. It was invigorating.
Over lunch, a big dashboard with a few numbers strewn across the wall, caught my eye.
In no time, conversations swerved around to the dashboard. With alacrity. "This is 'THE' dashboard", I was told. He hastened to add with panache, and a reasonable amount of pride, that the only numbers that got posted on the public dashboard was 'deal closures'. After all, the only thing that counted was 'results'. And yes, the results were coming.
How many times have you heard of "The results are the only stuff that counts"?! For one, I have heard it often. Infact, all the time. The focus on 'outcomes' and 'results' is a modern day narrative that is all pervasive. After all, in the 'winner takes all' era, musnt the focus be on winning (and results)? Its only logical.
But. (Yes, indeed there are a few 'buts')
No, I don't have a problem with results. Please don't get me wrong. But like most other topics of discussion of the modern day world, one side of the chant is so loud that the parts that make it what it is, are obscured and soon forgotten. In this case, 'focus on results' gets disproportionately loud attention that other aspects that would make it possible are ignored!
Results are outcomes. Outcomes are a function of several factors. Some of it a direct consequence of the effort of people in an organisation and some, completely extraneous to the organisation. (Yet others happen despite the best efforts of the organisation, if you know what I mean :)). Enough said, results by themselves, conceal far more than they reveal. In an organisation, where a diverse set of people work towards a common goal there is a deep need for more than just a 'final result', for employees to stay engaged and strive harder.
Here are three such aspects.
a. Does every employee have a clear set of 'inputs' towards the goal? How are these being measured and tracked? More importantly, are these 'celebrated' as well? Can these get to a dashboard somewhere as well? Can there be conversations about these?
b. If the 'grand outcome' is the only result thats going to be be the dashboard, does every employee have a clear understanding of his or her daily work adds up to the grand result?
c. How often (& how well) are the inputs calibrated with the initial results that are coming in? Do people reflect often, enough and deeply on both successes and failures?
Practically speaking, these are the aspects within the control of the organisation that people can do something about!
Looking at the scoreboard is important. But paying attention to every ball that is being bowled at you is what will get runs on the scoreboard. We spoke about this at length as we explored our ideas that evening, with the dashboard as the backdrop.
"What is that one thing that you could do to make the results owned by everybody in the organisation?” I asked. It didnt take long before a junior engineer took the whiteboard marker and wrote quietly, 'Let the results be the North Star. But let us together decide how we will measure our efforts'
There was a faint pause before the team launched itself on defining what needed to be measured for the grand outcome to come forth.
Last heard, my friend tells me that the results continue to grow. Every wall is said to be sport a dashboard of some sort that was designed by team. 'The difference', he added, 'the team tells me they find work more meaningful'.