• umlaut group

Intentionally Successful Outcomes

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

I hope this combination of words causes you to pause – perhaps even wrinkling your nose in response. Intentionally Successful Outcomes. As if there are intentionally unsuccessful outcomes…. or unintentionally successful outcomes. What the heck is this all about?

Let’s start with the facts. Failure is far too prevalent (where failure equates to some combination of the following -- too late, over budget, insufficient quality, insufficient business impact). After a career of chasing (and building) successful outcomes – punctuated by being a part of some initiatives that were seemingly doomed from the start – I have invested much of my career learning to mitigate against failure and do better. I have an established point of view.

Returning to Intentionally Successful Outcomes -- let’s examine the components.

Outcome: In isolation, we know that an Outcome is largely either good or bad – it either fails to meet expectations or succeeds (hopefully succeeding wildly).

Successful Outcome: The components of a Successful Outcome are a) the successful introduction of the ability to drive change (a successful project), and b) behavior changes which result in a positive benefit to the business (successful organizational change management).

Intentionally Successful Outcomes: Adding Intention, then, to a Successful Outcome suggests the following:

  • A hypothesis exists as to the change opportunity

  • Which requires an understanding of your business ecosystem. (If the expectation is that the “best” or “optimal” change opportunity is targeted, this component is pivotal)

  • This presumes an understanding of your customer/customer segment – their needs, preferences, tolerances, and expectations

  • Implicit to this understanding is your Organizational Strategy – how you intend to win in your marketplace – the change opportunity must serve to strengthen your positioning

  • The change can be described in terms of what will be done differently, by whom, and when/in what situation(s)

  • The impact of the change can be properly valued – what is the business benefit of the change and what would should be paid to realize the benefit

  • The change is feasible, it can be implemented effectively and successfully – time, scope, budget, and at sufficient quality

  • Successful implementation necessitates that those responsible for designing and implementing the change understand, explicitly, all of the aforementioned context

  • Post implementation, the desired behavior change(s) can be brokered across your organization. This requires an ability to inspire, educate, monitor, measure, and course correct as needed

  • The original hypothesis about the business value of the change opportunity can be measured, and the effect of the behavior change can be witnessed and tested

  • A Continuous Improvement mindset is applied to the realization of the business benefit – fine tuning the change components (be they technical and/or human changes). In turn, this new change loops back to bullet 1. .

As you review the 11 components of intentionality, my hope is that you are nodding your head. Perhaps you are even saying to yourself, “Yep. This makes sense. So where is the payoff?”

The payoff is found here; while there is lift for your organization simply by possessing answers to each of these components (and I would wager that this is, indeed, the case), immense value is found in the institutionalization of this knowledge – making it accessible and understood by all -- creating an ability to have deeper, more meaningful conversations about the initiative.


The approach with the greatest impact and efficacy is building a reference model of the changes and the desired impact to your business.

Our business reference model spans all components of an organization:

  • Strategy: How will you win in the marketplace

  • Business Model: What you provide, to whom, via which channels/partners

  • Business Capability Model: What you do in running your business today

  • Materials and Resources: Those things you source externally which are instrumental to creating your product

  • Customer and Prospect Engagement: channels which support customer and prospect interactions. These include things such as Digital, Social, Call Center, Field Sales, etc.

  • Customer Epic: Overarching customer journey from product awareness through to support

  • Customer Journeys: Specific Moments of Truth from across the customer epic, detailing who your customers are, their goal(s), touchpoints with your brand/organization, and their pain points. Of specific concern is identification of their expectations, highlighting opportunities to meaningfully delight.

In my experience, I have found this model to be ubiquitous -- any change in any organization can be modeled by some combination of the above components. A copy of our model can be found here; umlaut group business reference model

Some tips:

1. Right Size your efforts

  • Modeling the entirety of your business, however, is likely too heavy. It will take too long, deliver too little value to your change effort, and will require its own sponsorship and Organizational Change Management efforts for it to take root.

  • Instead, approach the creation of the reference model in terms of a Minimally Viable Product. Explore how to express the change you aspire to in a manner that makes sense of the change, holistically. Be detailed where needed and generalize where detail does not create immediate value for the change.

  • Trace the change across all components of your organization, up to and including Business Model and Strategy. The context which is created will be more than worth the investment of time.

2. Pay specific attention to the business capabilities

  • Invest in building a good business capability model. Set your sights on “usable”, not perfect. Perfection pays no additional dividends, but costs a lot more to create. Similarly, avoid attempting to identify every process that is performed. Generalization truly is your friend.

  • Socialize the model across your organization, ensuring a fit of both capability names (language very much matters) and understanding/concurrence. For the model to be useful, it has to be understood.

  • Remember, this is not an organizational view – avoid the comfortable pitfall of modeling which teams do what. This will result in a model that is filled with redundancy and is unnecessarily volatile, hindering its value and overall efficacy. As before, generalization is your friend.

3. Define the scope of your effort by creating a value chain

  • Traditionally, value chains existed at a macro level – examining how a firm performs to deliver a product or service in a specific industry. Instead, apply this concept to your specific change, identifying each business capability that is necessary in order for the change to create value.

  • Think about this holistically, being sure to include capabilities which might be initially viewed as more ancillary to the actual change. For instance, if your change is to encourage self-service from your customers, include those capabilities which are necessary to create awareness for your customers. Likewise, make certain you include capabilities which support the continuous improvement of the solution, post implementation. The ability to do things such as measure activity, assess the efficacy and plan remediation should be accounted for as the realization of the full business value of the change hinges on such efforts.

“This sounds like a bunch of work, and we have done ok in the past, having never done this…. so, why create a reference model at all?”

A reference model will incorporate all facets of the change. It is explicit, abstracting pockets of knowledge or understanding from many individuals, consolidating into a single view and providing lasting clarity for the organization as a whole. When done well, a reference model will:

  • Provide the needed context for WHY the change is needed

  • Identifies the WHATs of the change

  • Inform your delivery team(s) – providing necessary context for what is important as they build out the HOW. Equally valuable, it provides context for what is not important. These are important guard rails.

  • Supercharge your Organizational Change Management efforts, as it helps to clarify what is changing, why its changing, and for whom the changes will impact

  • Create a language for the change which is rooted in intent

  • Provide a framework against which impact can be measured and communicated, for both the interim behavior changes and the realization of the ultimate expected value associated with the change

Restated – when done well, you can expect greater success for your initiatives; better solutions, crisper execution and a faster realization of benefits.

I wish you many intentionally successful outcomes.

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