Often we get caught up in the detail of what we are busy doing, and lose sight of what we are trying to accomplish. The task becomes the goal, and the goal is lost. By reminding yourself regularly of what you are trying to accomplish, and questioning whether what you are doing is the best way to get there, you can flag when it’s time to change methods.
You don’t want the task. You want the outcome.
The title of this article is the subscript under Menno Graaf’s LinkedIn profile.
Since I first read it a few years ago I’ve sort of adopted this as a kind of motto. You can insert whatever you are doing into that sentence to remind you of what you are really trying to achieve.
You don’t want salespeople. You want customers.
Recently I tried to headhunt a salesman that I deeply respect – and he said to me, “You don’t want salespeople, you want customers.” He then proceeded to come up with an incredibly innovative way of building a structure by which one can structure a much closer relationship through shared ownership, with customers, that could work in the type of work I do. It would add much more value, build longer term relationships, and greatly reduce the waste of constant sales efforts.
For a retail business you might even say, “You don’t want customers, you want sales.”
You don’t want strategy … you want to realize a dream
One of the things I help clients do, is to formulate and execute strategy. However, I realize that what they really want is not the strategy. What they want is whatever is at the end of that strategy. It is very easy to lose focus of that in the process of formulating what seems like an amazing strategy.
You don’t want improved productivity. You want increased profit.
Another thing I do is help clients to improve their operations through accelerating their value stream. But they don’t really want a faster value stream. They want more profit, and typically they want it with less active involvement in the operations.
Question your methods
The point of Menno’s line here is not that project management is bad in itself, nor that you should steer clear of it. His point is that very often project management does not help to get projects done faster, more on time, or more within budget.
Similarly, often strategies do not end up delivering what the owners or leaders of the company really wanted to accomplish; Productivity improvements do not end up delivering increased profit and less chaos.
I regularly ask myself these questions to check if I’m violating Menno’s principle:
1. What am I really trying to achieve?
2. What am I doing to achieve that?
3. Why do I believe that doing this will achieve that?
Change method if the method does not serve the outcome
It is surprising how often these three simple questions make me change strategy.
Of course those who use Theory of Constraints, will recognize a bit of Strategy and Tactic logic in those three questions. But that’s for another post.
To your success