Several months ago, I was having a coaching conversation with a client where the conversation went down a path of how a situation looked versus how it was in reality. In that moment, it occurred to me how impactful that concept was to leaders of any organization! To be able to separate perception of how a situation or issue looks or feels from the factual truth about a situation or issue is the level of critical thinking crucial to effective leadership.
As we put these words to paper, most leaders are winding down the current business year and putting the final touches on their plans for the next business year. If they are like our clients, they’ve documented the strategies, operation and tactical successes for the past year. In addition to the summary of success, we press further to have leaders document what they base their successes on. This prevents a success narrative that begins with statements such as, “We feel like we did...”, or ”We think that we accomplished...”, or “It looks like we achieved...”. In our view, these are optics statements that are begging to be challenged with factual validation. As the expression goes, “If you can’t measure it, did it really happen?”!
As leaders put their final touches on next year’s strategy, and associated operational and tactical plans, it is important to remember the level of metrics that tell the complete story of organizational success. As a refresher, we look at the multiple layers of metrics that align to produce business impact. At a tactical level, processes produce outputs. When we combine processes into a collection of systems, outcomes are the output of these systems. Finally, when people apply these outcomes through the lens of the organizational vision and mission, then impact happens. Processes produce outputs, systems produce outcomes and people produce impact!
So, as leaders look ahead, they must focus on all the three. When leaders only focus on process outputs, the results of each process are out of alignment with each other creating friction within the system. When development outputs in a non-profit are misaligned with program outputs, systemic outcomes cannot be achieved. When sales outputs are out of alignment with customer service outputs, systemic outcomes cannot be achieved!
This brings us to the importance of systems alignment. If we assume the process outputs are aligned within the systems, leaders must still address the question of impact. What impact are these outcomes having? If you are a non-profit leader of a food bank for instance, what measurable impact is providing food having on the community at large? If you are a leader of a national services organization for example, what measurable impact is providing those services having on the clients and/or communities? The conversation does not stop at outcomes, it ends with how the outcomes are leveraged for sustained impact!
Business alignment is about creating a business narrative giving leaders the ability to communicate success in a tangible and meaningful way. Just because the business feels good or looks good, does not mean it is having the desired impact. That impact can only be a product of measurable outcomes, not optics!
How are your business outcomes creating impact? If you don’t know, we can help!