Outcomes Over Deliverables

A recurring theme this year is helping our collaborators and clients think less about deliverables and more about outcomes.

I had a friend in middle school named Chris Morris. Teachers used to give him the hardest time in math because he never solved problems the way it outlined them in the book. He’d start working out the problem and find a side door method to derive the correct answer. It drove teachers crazy. They were so focused on the steps in the book, they’d deduct points from his grade. One day, like a scene from Good Will Hunting, Chris solved an extra credit problem no one had solved all year. The teachers never bothered him again.

The work we do day in, and day out, is often too nuanced to get hung up on a specific set of deliverables. This is one of the main issues with RFPs. Typically they’re so rigid and specific to what is being delivered that they lose sight of what the project is seeking to accomplish. It usually comes down to priorities. Do we want something done a certain way or done to produce our desired outcome or benefit?

If by contrast, you focus on the desired outcome(s), then it’s easier to embrace unpredictability and work towards the best solution.

Team morale plays a role here as well. Most teams want to know they did work that mattered or moved the needle in some way. Spending too much time on specific deliverables can suck the joy out of the work.

Don’t get me wrong. Projects and initiatives have scopes of work that produce deliverables. But going into a project, it’s potentially limiting or counterproductive to lock in specific deliverables before starting to work. Like our friend Chris, once you start working on something with the outcome in mind, the right deliverables reveal themselves.

Until next time.