Monday, April 9, 2012

Results Reflect Values

Once more, with feeling!

From a recent post come these bullets tying together  Pirsig (1974) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM), and Keeney (1992) Value-Focused Thinking (VFT):

  • Values (Heart). Get the Values right, or the Numbers don't matter.
  • Plan (Head). Get the Numbers right, or the Plan doesn't matter.
  • Action (Hands). Get the Plan right, or the Results don't matter.

What we achieve is a function of what we think about and how we think about it (plus other stuff like skill, knowledge, and ability), What we think about in turn reveals what matters most to us. Not what we say matters most to us, but what actually matters most to us. Values are reflected in Results.

Decision-making should start with a long-term perspective. The motive for decision-making should be the fulfillment of deeply-held values, not the selection of problem-solving alternatives.

Focusing on values instead of alternatives opens the decision opportunity to different perspectives, and to more of an enterprise-wide or systemic impact.

The holistic approach of VFT inspires greater innovation and offers a better chance at attaining results in harmony with long-term objectives. VFT reduces the odds of misapplying resources to problems that are not constraining the system.

Merely solving the next problem that presents itself could be likened to putting the ladder up against the wrong wall. Put the ladder up against the wrong wall, and it does not matter how fast you climb!

Sometimes the decision situation calls for fire-fighting type of decision-making--purely reactionary and instinctive. VFT is not suited for that situation of high importance and high urgency. VFT is ideal for the high importance and low urgency situations. If a decision-maker has time to make a plan, and if the results have strategic import, then the decision situation warrants an investment in a deliberate, transparent, mathematical, data-fueled methodology.

Once more, with feeling, I present an expanded and annotated version of my three bullets:

  • Values (Heart). Begin with a shared understanding of values. Values matter most. Problems come at the individual or decision-maker. Armed with a "data-fueled" assessment framework, the decision-maker can treat those problems as decision opportunities. With an understanding of the system's processes and an orientation on the system-wide effects, the decision-maker can then identify which decision opportunities are most important--and thus avoid expending resources on less consequential matters. The D-M must look at the numbers that matter from a values perspective. Get the Values right or the Numbers don't matter. 
  • Plan (Head). Once a value-focused gap or decision opportunity is identified, an improvement plan can be crafted to close that gap. Fueled with performance data, the D-M can understand how all  underlying processes contribute to the system or enterprise. There may be several gaps or friction points across the enterprise, but VFT offers an approach for selecting projects and managing portfolios of projects to do the most good with constrained resources, For clarity, the D-M must define objectives in the common language of numbers.  Get the Numbers right, or the Plan doesn't matter.
  • Action (Hands). What we do reflects what matters most. A plan must provide clear and achievable directions for accomplishing a mission. If the plan is unrealistic, the results will be unsatisfactory. Every living thing changes--and I certainly include individuals, teams, and organizations as "living things." The D-M must orchestrate change toward some shared goal. A sound plan, well-executed, gets results that matter. In the end, the results are the proof of the plan, and everything that went into the plan. Get the Plan right, or the Results don't matter.

What we do as individuals, teams, or organizations reflects our values. Does it not make sense, then, to express our true passions and guiding values deliberately up front, and then to organize our activities in support of realizing those values? And when our actions fall short and we do nothing to correct the situation, have we not in fact just lowered the bar?

Results accurately reflect the true values of any person, team, or organization.

VFT applies to all of the following topics or disciplines: 
  • risk assessment and risk management, 
  • decision-making and problem-solving, 
  • project selection and portfolio management, 
  • workforce alignment and organizational behavior, and
  • group dynamics and human capital development.