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It’s long been fashionable for us to knowingly advise each other to focus on outcomes. This is just common sense, so it’s hard to fault. But there’s an angle on outcomes which is usually overlooked.

What constitutes an outcome to him, might not constitute one to her. It’s all down to our personal motivations. The default level for outcomes tends to be the business or organisation level. So we feel justified in counselling each other that a Windows upgrade is not an outcome, because it doesn’t directly bring reduced operating expenditure.

But a Windows upgrade is an outcome, and a very important one for the Windows support team to keep in mind. What trips us up here is the level of focus of the outcome, and the unfortunate ease with which even senior IT professionals home-in on narrow outcomes at the expense of broad ones.

I consider four levels of outcome. We can think of them as four concentric circles, ranging from macro- to micro-focus:

  1. World - Saving 10,000 lives, or reducing national carbon emissions.
  2. Organisation – Shaving 4% off a hospital’s run costs, or improving customer satisfaction by 15 points
  3. Project – Delivering a new IT system to meet the requirements, 2 months early
  4. Technical – Installing and configuring the software package to specification

All important. And all intertwined.

Some people stick firmly to one of these levels.

Some progress up (or down!) the list as their careers progress.

Some people can naturally think at more than one level.

And the nirvana? To effortlessly switch focus, hopping between levels with ease, communicating with people who focus at any of the four levels, and able to translate and map between them.

This kind of hopping is critical in the areas of benefits realisation, IT strategy and IT innovation. So it’s just one of many skills we try to cultivate in the CIO Advisory team. You can be the judge of our success!

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