Achieve more with ‘Results Focused Thinking’

If you are not getting the results you desire, even after putting a lot of effort, one reason could be that you are thinking in terms of activities and not in terms of results or outcome.

One of the attributes of successful managers is that they think in terms of results and not in terms of random activities. They will have clarity on the results or goals, they are after. They will track not only their ‘To do list’ but also their goals. Their mind thinks in terms of results to be accomplished for the week, for the month and so on. Thinking and tracking in terms of results simplifies your life and helps you to achieve more by producing more results. Also you feel much more in control of your business, project and life.

Just to give an analogy, you can think of a car as a machine of about 60,000 components or as a machine of about 12 assemblies or systems. Thinking in terms of assemblies makes it easy to visualize and that enhances our understanding.

Results focused thinking is applicable when you are managing your business, projects or even life!

Activity focused people are happy when they finish a task that is on their plate; they feel happy by clearing their to-do-list or clearing their inbox. They may have several activities/projects/initiatives that are almost complete, but not yet delivered a business value. They may not be aware of the context or significance of the project. They expect managers to praise them for the extra hours put. They mistake effort or movement as achievement.

When people are result focused, they think in terms of outcomes/goals they are after and get excited when an outcome or a purpose is getting accomplished. They understand that work-in-progress has not yet created a business value.

When an individual contributor becomes a manager, one of the skills to be developed is thinking in terms of results. As a manager, your concern is about deliverables/outcome/results. You realize that you work in a system or in a process framework. Value is created always as an outcome of a process. Some activities of the process have only a small influence on the outcome and some activities will have a major influence on the outcome. Process compliance matters, and process effectiveness determines the quality and certainty of outcome. You realize that if you have control on the process, you have control on the outcome too. You are measured by the outcomes you have created.

When you move from a middle manager to a senior management role, you think in terms of purposes. You are expected to have an entrepreneur mindset. You exist for a certain purpose. You don’t treat not doing an activity or not meeting a goal as a failure. You don’t mind trying different paths. As long as you are progressing towards your core purpose, you are a success. This long-term thinking gives you resilience and strength to hold on to your purpose, whatever may be the obstacles you may have.

Understanding Result Focused Thinking is important for a manager to make great impact in the organization. Without this understanding or practice, you will see several issues manifesting in an organization.

  • Managers won’t be able to scale up, since they will have too many things to do on their plate and it will be overwhelming. They will think completing activities as progress and may give equal importance to all activities. They often miss the point that 80% of value or progress is created by 20% of activities.
  • Managers may become too narrow focused, doing only their activities. They won’t be able to see the entire process and may develop a tunnel vision, in the absence of systems thinking.
  • Managers won’t take enough end-to-end ownership for their project or group, since they think that activities are what create value, where as in an organization, customer value is created always as an outcome of a process.

So, to succeed in life or business, you need Results Focused Thinking. How do you develop a habit of results focused thinking? And how do you help your team to think in terms of results and accomplish more?

First thing to do is to have clarity on your goals. Be clear about the result you are after. Set SMART goals for you and for your team; document them. (SMART goals means they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.)

Whenever you do an activity, ask the question ‘What’s it for’ or ‘Does it help?’. This filters out several wasteful activities from your daily life. This aligns your activity with your goals/purpose. This gives time to do what really matters. This will empower you to say ‘No’ to trivial demands from others.

Similarly, when you set your goals, ensure they are aligned to your core purpose and the roadmap. Having too many goals to chase at the same time can be overwhelming; avoid that.

Visualizing end outcome as if it already happened, before starting an activity or project, can really boost the motivation and can give strength to tackle any obstacle that may come on the way.

When you do a project, the expected outcome is not just delivering a solution to the customer. Think of your project as a subset of the bigger organizational purpose. Then you can see that a project creates value for most of the stakeholders: new learning, excitement and feeling of accomplishment for the team; revenue growth, profit and reputation for the organization; solutions to a burning problem for the customer; innovation and reusable components useful for other projects, recognition and new capabilities for the resource groups and so on. This big picture view encourages collaboration and results in better outcome for all the stakeholders.

When you initiate a project, ensure the team is aware of the big picture or context of the project. Let them know how the project makes an impact for the client, for the organization and also for various stakeholders.

When you are reviewing a project/program as a manager, ask for outcomes and deliverables made, not just activities done. If you ask any team member, what are their deliverables for the month, they should be able to tell their list of deliverables and the target date, from their memory. If you have managers reporting to you, make them accountable for the end-to-end process outcome. Also empower them with what all resources they need. Make them focused on value creation. Ask their feedback. You can praise progress made or effort made, but celebrate only outcome or deliverables shipped.

Using a dashboard giving goals and the progress is another way to encourage results focused thinking. It helps all stakeholders to be on the same page with respect to the purpose, goals, obstacles and progress.

Also coach your team to think in terms of outcome or results.

When you take the above steps, you will find that you are creating a lot more value for your client, your organization, your teams and for yourself.