Are You Focused on Process or Outcome? Why Project Success depends on this Question.

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I work with a number of large companies and it always strikes me as crazy that at certain times of the year someone decides it’s time for a sales campaign and then a flurry of meetings begin where everyone throws in their ideas about what type of campaign they will do and how it will be measured and who will be responsible for it and then they do exactly the same campaign they did last year.

A lacklustre campaign is then developed and run and at the end of the process, it’s never mentioned again until next year.

This scenario is repeated year after year and no one ever stops to ask if this is achieving what they want it to achieve. It’s as if because it has always been done this way they have to keep doing it.

Many years ago in the U.K., we all looked forward to the annual Boxing Day sales (26th December) all the big stores began an ‘everything must go’ sale that ran from Boxing Day to usually the first week of January. In most cases, it was the only sale a store had all year and we all got excited. We even saved money just for the sales.

Then some clever person came along and thought, why don’t we have a sale at the end of every season? And so began the end of season sales and then the every week sale.

The problem with having a sales campaign every week is nobody looks forward to the Boxing Day sales anymore. Nobody saves money to spend in the sales and stores have become so desperate, they begin their end of year sales at the beginning of December, and in many cases even earlier.

What has happened is a loss of sight of the outcome — to clear out the old stock to make room for the new stock. — It has just become a process. Something they now do at the end of every season. There’s nothing special anymore. Nothing for the customer to get excited about. But the question still needs asking, why? Why are we having a sale? Because the competition is doing so? Because we want great short-term sales results? Because sales performance is not very good and we need to boost our figures?

In our own personal lives, we often do something similar — New Years resolutions and the desire to lose weight before going on holiday — We plan the same things year after year and eventually lose sight of why we are doing it. We just go through the motions and when we just go through the motions, the goal becomes irrelevant and we just follow the process we followed last year so we can say we tried and we failed again.

When you stop and think. Get clear about the outcome you want to achieve and know exactly why you are doing it, your outcomes improve. The “how” becomes obvious and your energy and enthusiasm for doing your projects increase and you know, with clarity, when you have achieved it.

That’s the secret to accomplishing anything. Understanding your “why”.

If you are doing something ‘just because’ you are either going to fail or your results will be poor. Unclear outcomes and unknown whys never achieve very much.

It is true, the process is what will get you to the result you want. But before you begin the process you need to take a step back and clearly define the outcome you want. Start with “what is it we want to achieve?” And “What will successfully achieving this outcome look like?” Write the answer’s to these questions down and make sure everyone in your team fully understands them.

Next comes the why. Why are you doing this project? Ideally, this needs to hit an emotion. “To safeguard our jobs” might be a bit extreme and does not really hit the right emotions — fear is never a good reason for doing something. But “to make it more affordable for our customers to receive the benefits of our products” works better. Particularly if you are sincere about wanting to help your customers.

Likewise on a personal level. If your reasons for losing weight and getting fit is to look good in your swimwear, you will probably find vanity is not such a good motivator. But if you want to lose weight and get fit so you can spend more time playing football with your kids, now you have a strong personal why. It also becomes apparent that this is not something you should start thinking about at the beginning of the summer. This is something that should be built into your daily life as a matter of course.

In both our personal and professional lives, being very clear about what we want to achieve and why is crucial to our success. Clarity of outcome and strong, emotional whys gives us the right motivation to push forward when things don’t go according to plan and that is why it is vital we spend enough time defining the task and knowing why we are doing it so when things do go wrong we have a strong fallback position from which to launch a big push.

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