How to Help the Project-Oriented Become Results-Oriented

April 16, 2013 by Stacey Barr

Subscriber Sue asks: “My biggest challenge is that senior management doesn’t want their strategy to be results focused or necessarily strategic – instead they focus on a plethora of new projects. How do you convince leadership of the importance of having a results-oriented strategy and making it measurable?”

It isn’t an either-or decision to be project-oriented or results-oriented. We need to be both, but at the right time. We need to be project-oriented when we are managing the activities and initiatives we’ve invested in. And we need to be results-oriented to make sure those investments are not a waste of time and money.

This is the difference between Program Management and Performance Management: Program Management monitors milestones and expenditure to keep projects on track. Performance Management monitors performance measures to keep the results on track.

When people are only project-oriented, waste is guaranteed.

Performance does not boil down to completing projects on-time and on-budget. The only reason we invest time and money into projects is to make a needed difference or have a specific impact or achieve a particular result.

If we don’t know what that difference or impact or result is then how can we know that we’ve chosen the right project? How can we know if we’ve designed the project in the right way, and implemented it well? If we don’t know, then we’re guessing.

Acting on guesses will always cause many times more waste than acting on knowledge.

But when people are only results-oriented, nothing changes.

Being clear about the results we’re striving to achieve is motivating and focusing. We get everyone’s energy aligned toward the same end goal. Collaboration is easier, and so is decision-making when problems or difficult choices arise.

But without action, results never become reality. We sit around theorising and visioning and never get anything done. This breeds cynicism and apathy.

We need to marry results-oriented and project-oriented thinking.

In Sue’s situation, she’s starting with a group of people with a project-oriented bias. So that’s where she needs to start the dialogue to help them learn results-oriented thinking too.

An important thing for Sue is to make it clear she’s not asking them to focus on results INSTEAD of projects. She’s just asking them to consider putting results and projects in the right order. That way, the PROJECTS can be celebrated when they successfully create the RESULTS that they are intended to create.

Sue should start simply, by showing them with one project. In local government, a typical project is to create and deliver a new community program, like promoting sporting clubs.

Sue could ask them what change in the community this project will make if (or when) it succeeds. They might say it’s to increase community participation in organised community activities. That’s the result.

Then she could ask them how they would recognise that result in the real world. They might say that they’d see club memberships growing, and more people using sporting venues in the community. That’s the start of finding the right measures.

The value of being clear about the results and the measures is that it’s FAR more exciting to celebrate success, and it makes sure that they are getting the biggest bang for their buck. People don’t pay rates and taxes to be educated on the benefits of sporting clubs – they pay for a happy and healthy lifestyle in their community.

Finally, Sue could ask them how they feel now that they’ve linked the project to a valuable result. She could ask them if they’d feel excited knowing this result was achieved because of their project.

That will plant the seed of results-oriented thinking that compliments project-oriented thinking. It’s a small step, but small steps are easier to start and easier to nurture.

TAKE ACTION:

Do you have ideas for how to encourage people to think about results, rather than just actions? Share your suggestions on the blog.

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  1. Peter says:

    Hello Stacey,

    Very impressed with the methodology used to aid Sue’s course.

    Regards,
    Peter

  2. The article rightly recommends ‘marrying’ result-orientation with project-orientation. It goes without saying that marriage should not a matter arising out of ‘fad’, but that of arising from ‘meeting of the minds’.
    This may sound quite difficult to put to practice.

    But, as with all similar articles, it also goes on show how this can be done.

    The projects, normally, ends with a major , strategic result, with several tactical outcomes on the way.

    Similarly review of (trend of ) results is likely to end into formulation of either a major (long-term, strategic change) project or tactical action plans to achieve the sort-term outcomes, expected from such reviews.

  3. Paul says:

    Results Orientation is great as long as it is concentrated on the (only) constraint to the system. If the company is mature enough to only work on the one constraint which is currently limiting profit then the result of the project (I agree : not the milestone) is indeed the KPI to follow.

    Dangerous to have as many KPI as there are dept heads.

    You may (will) end up with conflicts of interest !!

    Paul

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Ah Paul, you sound like TOC (Theory of Constraints) advocate!

      I kind of agree… although not many organisations are mature enough to know their biggest constraint… or to know if profit really is their overarching outcome. If the system of results is designed in support of a single company strategy, then I’ve seen it work very well to have department heads focusing on their contribution to that strategy.

  4. Stacey Good concept development.
    I don’t have comments but contributions to broaden and consolidate the Results based concept so that it’s applicable in large scopes.i.e multinationals and industries.I have been doing this for several companies and teachning it business schools.
    An alternative sound and methodological way the properly migrate project based to result based is to align to the Results Chain.
    Summarily,the results chain is Input-Activities-Output-Effects-Impacts.
    It involves defining and distinguishing Outputs from Effects and impacts and thier level of obtainability.Once this is done,corresponding KPI’s should be defined.The challenge lies in defining Activity-KPI which is different from Output-KPI,Effects-KPI and Impact-KPI and offcourse those responsible.
    Within a project this is possible,aswel as within a portfolio or a corporation.
    Ofcourse the leadership style involved is a major tool as strong charisma,good accountability spirit,strong delegation and directional managerial style are essential.

    Best Regards
    Martin

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Martin, I love this tool you’re describing: the Results Chain. It should become a natural way that everyone thinks in, to easily link their actions to their impacts.

      It reminds me of SIPOC, and would likely work well with this. SIPOC is Suppliers-Inputs-Process-Outputs-Customer.

  5. J Balasubramanian says:

    Begin with the end in mind…is what we (Big4 consultancy, where I was doing Internal Audit practice) recommended for the family run business houses who does not seem interested in completing any projects!

    When the management accepted the concept, we prompted them to agree to time line which made them to focus on results rather than just keeping the project being carried on!

    Weekly meeting with project team and department heads thrashed out all constraints faced by the project team…brought the project progress chart on line for everyone to see..so that they can chip in to contribute theri part…ensured open communication among the project team…so that no one can say that he is waiting for input from other member…

    The importance was given to milestones crossed towards end results than stages of projects completed…This is constantly reminded in ALL communications…along the chain..

    Result was we got another assignment from the group companies!
    regards,
    Bala
    jbmanian@rediffmail.com

  6. Prahlad Bhugra says:

    Stacey, I feel there are 3 factors which make project oriented people think about results also – culture, people and processes.
    1) People – Each person has one of the traits which is prominent in him/her : process, result, creativity or people savvy. You ask them to write or speak about any thing – you can understand the inherent nature of a person. Creative and process oriented people are easily coachable to become result driven. People savvy folks are difficult lot to be trained to become result oriented.
    2) Culture – if the leaders in a organization are aligned with each other and also with parent organization in terms of their startegies and have a buy in with senior managment of the company on their projects for the year – when I say aligned I mean the measures of success for startegies are very well aligned and accepted at all levels. If above is done good in an organization I feel 50% of work is done as leaders are now knowing exactly what is the outcome expected from their organizations. Next 50% of alignment in the organization comes from communications at various forums example all hands meetings, 1-1 meetings, review meetings and so forth. Communication becomes a key in creating a culture of achieving desired results for the year by executing on said projects.
    3) Processes – a deciplined method of goal writing, reviewing of projects, selection of project portfolios, 1-1 meetings guidance etc – all aids in making a result oriented team which works on given projects.
    In short culture plays the biggest role, then people and finally process…
    Hope it helps
    Prahlad

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