Whenever I am introduced to a new client, I become fixated on understanding the business outcomes they’re driving for – and whether they’re even well-designed business outcomes. Business outcomes need to go deeper than the strategy articulated on the website or on the posters on the wall, and achieving them needs to mean something, both to the organization and to its people.
More than even that, though, if/when you meet the desired business outcome, so what?
We need to be thinking beyond that single outcome and understanding what reaching these often arbitrarily chosen outcomes means not only for the time being, but for the future. The initiative isn’t over just because the outcome has been reached – it needs to be just the beginning.
Business Outcome, Defined
Webster defines the word outcome as “something that follows as a result or consequence”. Simple enough. There’s a pen on the table, you want the pen, so you pick up the pen.
But the question is why do you need the pen in the first place?
Business outcomes ask that why and then follow it up with, “so what?” What does reaching this business outcome mean for the company? For the people at the company? For the service or products provided to clients or customers?
At its most basic definition, a business outcome is a concise, defined, and observable result or change in business performance supported by a specific measure.
They can be very straightforward: we want to increase the customer retention rate by 5%. They can be quite complicated, such as: we want to become a carbon zero company. And they can certainly be somewhere in the middle: we want to improve employee retention within our leadership.
The questions need to go a bit deeper, regardless of complexity, and all need to be heavily scrutinized, asking “Why does it matter to becoming a successful business?”
Following this path of thinking to the end will give you the thread that pulls all of your initiatives together.
Business Outcomes Step-by-Step Example
Business outcomes can lead to multiple places, including acquisitions, growth at scale, going public, and even surviving an impending recession.
That said, it’s easy to say the company is “just going to do it” or to make it a company goal for the year, but how does it impact the people at the ground level? Do they have the bandwidth to achieve the goal? What changes have been made to help achieve the desired outcome and who is accountable for meeting it? Is performance tied to success?
For many businesses, the link between an outcome and the strategic goals of the business are disconnected from the capabilities to achieve them – as if business outcomes are grown, nurtured, and executed in a silo.
The link between the overarching business goals, desired business outcome, and the capabilities to carry out that outcome need to be distinctly articulated both from the top down and bottom up, accurately setting goals that actually achieve larger, top-down business outcomes.
Let’s look at this step-by-step.
Project: We want to implement a multi-cloud technology across the entire business.
Why is that important? Each department has its own siloed information that makes it improbable to see the bigger picture, with walls between finance, sales, legal, and operations.
Why is that important? We’re growing rapidly and need to be able to see accurate revenue projections, set sales goals, understand operational needs, and remain compliant with legal requirements.
Why is that important? We need to build trust with the analysts on the street and investors to help remove the volatility in our stock price and ensure the overall financial health of our business.
The “final why” can look different for every company – this same scenario can result in “We want to become an acquisition target/merge with a competitor, so we need to get a handle on our data and reporting to maximize the market value of our company.”
This line of thinking can go on and on, but it’s important to take the journey, tying each outcome to the larger picture of what “a successful business” looks like to you.
Designing a Successful Business Outcome Blueprint
Once an ideal business outcome has been identified and defined, the hard (but very rewarding) part begins: creating the blueprint. This often starts with identifying the success metrics – what, ultimately, will mean success?
In the example above, moving to a multi-cloud stack, is heavily reliant on technology to lead the company to a sustainable, scalable process. Internally, this requires a level of digital literacy, a clear vision, and a skilled change management plan.
Current legacy processes need to be mapped out and constantly questioned: why are things the way they are? Are they providing value and helping the business reach the desired outcome?
Map these out entirely, as shown here:
Share Price → Forecast Accuracy → Single Source of Truth = Enabled by Multi-Cloud Technology
Partner with Spaulding Ridge to Design Your Business Outcome Blueprint
All business is personal here at Spaulding Ridge, which means we want to understand how your business outcomes are defined, aligned, and measured. What could be more personal in business than having a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve and why?
At the end of the day, your organization needs to understand all the capabilities needed to deliver on your outcomes – people, process, technology, and data. We can be the catalyst to define your outcome roadmap to prove out value quickly. And that, I would say, is getting personal.
Have questions? Reach out to Rick Cadman today.
Head of Strategy and Outcomes, Spaulding Ridge
About the Author
Rick is a veteran in business transformation with 30+ years of consulting and developing a toolbox that helps organizations collaborate to design the future. A former GE Digital leader, Rick has spent the past six years traveling the globe, designing and delivering business transformation solutions for the C-suite.
As the Head of Strategy and Outcomes in the Cloud Advisory Practice at Spaulding Ridge, Rick will work directly with CXOs to solve business problems and create 360-degree alignment to help organizations scale rapidly.
Prior to Spaulding Ridge, Rick co-founded a strategy design company, stratuum, which is also the name of the framework he and Ron designed for accelerating outcomes using roadmaps and proving out value.