Strong teams clarify objectives and desired outcomes before strategies

Have you been here before?

  • The team has a project to provide some uncertain deliverable(s) to meet specific internal needs or the needs of a client.
  • The team meets for the first time.
  • Item #1 on the agenda is to clarify the objectives and desirable outcomes.
  • Five minutes into the meeting, without ever exploring where the project needs to go, the team is weighing pros and cons of alternatives for how to get there.

Cliche time: The cart is before the horse. If you don’t know where you are going, it really doesn’t matter which road you take.

Read on as Elton Billings at Extractable shares his team’s experience with this phenomenon.

Conducting the Conductors
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to sit in a room of people who spend their lives proposing solutions and ask that they state only the desired outcomes? Every idea about what should happen was accompanied by a method for making it happen.

But to me, one very interesting side effect of the meeting was getting an amplified example of one of the major traps of web strategy: getting to the solution before fully stating the goals of the site.

There is a very strong desire to quickly get to the solution phase. Having a defined solution is much more comfortable than not having one. The issue is that defining a solution too quickly can miss the mark by not allowing time to explore all possible outcomes and really get important details about the goals of the site.

Action-oriented, smart people are often eager to develop and implement strategies to accomplish objectives. Folks like these are wonderful for teams and it is critical to steer their energies toward the right objectives.

I find it more valuable to have the team members actually identify the key objectives, as opposed to some else handing the team pre-defined outcomes. As I discuss here, when teams go through the process of thinking about what outcomes are desired, it helps ensure that the doing that follows is most effective.

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5 Responses to Strong teams clarify objectives and desired outcomes before strategies

  1. Pamela says:

    Deciding something in a quick phase may be advantageous if time is limited. It’s no use doing it quickly if you’ll end up repeating your work. Thus, strategy is indeed important in every decision.

  2. Isn’t that true, Pam. It’s so easy to lose all the time saving achieved by a fast start when unforeseen obstacles creep up along the way.

    In a perfect world, I would start projects at a very deliberate pace, then really crank toward the end when most snags have surfaced and been resolved. I don’t mean to wait for crunch time, but later in project cycles tend to be more predictable.

  3. ann michael says:

    Blaine –

    This is so common! What’s even funnier is that sometimes the room full of problem-solvers can believe that determining the objectives is a waste of time. I’ve had situations where it has taken half a day to clarify the objectives (because everyone had a different goal) and people don’t always like to work through that. Some adopt the opinion “this is what we were told to do regardless of whether we understand it or it makes sense.” Other times there is no time in the project “time budget” to do this.

    It always saves time in the long run to have an idea of why you’re heading in a particular direction – you can change and adjust as the evidence to do so presents itself. And as you point out, there is no better way to insure that the team understands and is invested in the big picture when you do this. That understanding of the big picture will also help them to make correct “little decisions” throughout the implementation process.

    Great post!

  4. Ann – Investing that half day you talk about is possibly the most critical investment a group of people can make to insure the success of a project. All the resources in the world won’t help if key stakeholders are pulling in different directions.

    It can be uncomfortable. It may slightly seem like a waste of time, espeically compared to undertaking specific tasks. Sometimes we won’t find all the answers; it is okay to identify that some bridges that will need to be crossed later rather than sooner. Yet I’ve found that those bridges will be fewer, and they will be anticipated, when the objectives are clarified in advance.

  5. Daily Report, Mar 8

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