Well Formed Outcomes for Your Project?

February 2, 2011 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Management Best Practices

Well Formed Outcomes for Your Project?
By Spencer Wasley

In Project Management, we tend to judge our projects purely on delivery and think of the outputs of our projects solely in terms of deliverables. The overall objective or goal of a project may initially include something visionary; it may be viewed as a means of making processes and people more effective or supporting people-based initiatives, but once started, these intents can often be lost.

On large Programs, ‘outcomes’ as well as ‘outputs’ are sometimes defined by teams working with ‘visions’ and ‘blueprints’. At a Project level however, have you considered the ‘outcomes’ that you and your team want from a Project? How can you define these and what benefits would they give you?

An outcome can be defined as: ‘The result of a change, normally affecting real work, behavior or circumstances’. When we join a project or are given one to manage, we may look on it as a challenge, thinking about the specific things that we could get out of it. Maybe it’s an opportunity to get some more influence in the organization or to work on our leadership skills. Perhaps we even have some personal objectives to meet.

How do we ensure that our own objectives are met, together with those of our team, especially when the project gets going and we are in the thick of it? Like many other activities within a project, the first thing to do is to get a very clear definition of what we want, and then manage and monitor progress against it.

I’m sure you’ve heard of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) goals or objectives. Whilst these are good at ensuring we drill-down to the specifics of a deliverable from a project outputs point of view, they can sometimes take the heart out of our outcomes.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) has some great tools and techniques to support Project Management that we can adopt on our Projects to focus on outcomes. One of these tools is called ‘Well Formed Outcomes’.

‘Well Formed Outcomes’ require ‘Well Formed Conditions’, which, as the name suggests, takes your outcomes and gets you to apply some conditions to them, a bit like applying SMART to your goals.

Well Formed Conditions ensure that:

  • The outcome is stated in positive terms
    Think about the success of your outcome and be as motivational as possible

  • The outcome is within your control
    Ensure you can actually deliver it and it is owned by you

  • The outcome is as specific as possible
    Needs to be clearly defined

  • The outcome has a sensory-based evidence procedure
    People usually have a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic preference. Can your outcome be validated in one or more of these ways: seeing, listening or feeling?

  • Consider the context of the outcome
    Does the outcome make sense in the context within which it is going to be achieved?

  • Ensure the outcome has access to resources it needs
    Do you have the resources to achieve your outcome?

  • Ensure the outcome preserves the existing benefits
    Does the outcome have any side effects or diminish any existing positive aspects?

  • Check the outcome is ecologically sound
    Does the outcome meet with the necessary ecology standards for you, your team, the project and the organization?

  • Define the first step to achieve a positive outcome
    What is the first action towards meeting this outcome? Define it!

I would suggest you start by using the conditions as a cross-check against any outcomes you’ve defined or want to achieve from a project. Even just asking your team and stakeholders, “What outcomes would you like from the Project”, can generate an interesting discussion on their views of the end game.

Why not try incorporating some ‘Well Formed Outcomes’ on your next project?

Spencer has over 20 years experience in delivering projects, programs, project offices and business change initiatives. He has specific expertise in establishing and managing Project Management Organizations and is both a member of the PMI and a Prince 2 and MSP Practitioner. He holds qualifications in Management, Coaching and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) as well as being a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and EMCC (European Mentoring & Coaching Council).

Having worked with a number of major organizations including the CEGB, Virgin, AXA, Marsh, Hewitt Associates and Total Gas & Power, Spencer has considerable experience in delivering both business and IT projects across Europe and the World.

Spencer has just released an eBook titled: ‘Project Coaching A-Z : A brief introduction’, published on Kindle. He has also released a shorter Project Coaching ‘taster’ as an iPhone app: ‘Project Coaching A-Z’.

You can follow “The Project Coach” on twitter at @TheProjectCoach, or on WordPress under ProjectCoaching.wordpress.com.

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