Maximise effectivess by focusing on outcomes

Sue Willcock Food for Thought

I wonder how many of us are focused on the practicalities of our task lists today, as opposed to how we might approach our ‘to do’ lists differently to achieve the same outcomes, both personally and for our customers or clients.
If we define an outcome as ‘something that follows from an action, or situation; result; consequence’, what is it that you really want to achieve today?  By responding to this question at a fundamental level and developing a ‘desired outcome’ approach today, I wonder how your plans for the day, week and month might change?
At a macro-level, writers such as Stephen Covey invite us to consider this question for our whole life in order to help us prioritise what is really important to us.  By exploring our own ‘bigger picture’, our values and beliefs, we can in turn translate these into day to day activity to make for a more fulfilled life.
So, what might this mean in practice?  For me, my ‘traditional’ to do list today includes a ‘coffee moment catch up’ meeting with a client for which we both have to travel, writing a report, walking the dog, cooking dinner, preparing for a meeting I have on Friday – the list goes on.  If I think about my ‘outcomes’ though, they are more ‘high level’ and include the following.  They very much reflect my personal values and motivators and what makes me happy.
• To feel calm and ‘in control’
• To spend time with my partner (and our dog!)
• To support my clients and do what’s best for them
• To ‘add value’ at my meeting on Friday with client X
Using this list, I can explore how I might prioritise today and, critically how I might achieve my outcomes in the best way.
Covey’s ‘Big Rocks’ concept http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VDxKLSyksI is one which is useful to mention here (and his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’) and of course, like everyone, I will still have some ‘small pebble’ jobs to do like putting the bins out later and filling in my tax forms!
However, having focused on my desired outcomes and not just a traditional ‘to do list’, there are things I will do differently today so that I prioritise those things that directly support the outcomes I want to achieve.  I will also question how I was planning to get things done.  As an example, I can achieve the same outcome for my client by ‘Skyping’ our conversation, I can add value for my client on Friday by doing some extra research which I will prioritise today, I can spend time with my partner later if I use the slow cooker – we can walk the dog together while it’s cooking.  I can also use my ‘outcomes’  to decide what I will not do today.  My plan to update my website can wait as it does not support one of my desired outcomes for today.  The report I needed to write can also be re-prioritised – in fact, I am not sure the client needs the 8 page report we talked of to meet their outcome….a question I will ask today.
So today, as we may be affected in some way or another by the weather, I invite you to start thinking about the desired outcome for you and your clients/customers to inform ‘what you do and the way you do it’ to make you more effective.
Good questions to get you started are:
• What are you (or your client/customer) trying to achieve?
• What will that give you/them?
• What aspect of life or your/their business direction does this support?
• How might you achieve the desired outcome?
• How will you know when you get there?
• What might you do differently as a result of focusing on outcomes?
For more support in developing an outcome approach, please do contact me – many clients have found this approach to be invaluable in business planning, in a coaching context, in streamlining processes and in supporting teams in becoming more client and customer focused.