Friday, October 27, 2017

Clarity and the 12 Sins of Poorly Defined Outcomes

It is still not enough for language to have clarity and content... it must also have a goal and an imperative. Otherwise from language we descend to chatter, from chatter to babble and from babble to confusion. - Rene Daumal

At some point, a flash of sustained clarity reveals the difference between what someone would have you believe is true, and what you know from the depths of your own heart to the peaks of your soul to be true. What happens after that is up to you. – Aberjhani

A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of some intense frustration over some  business intentions that have refused to cross the finish line no matter how much nudging and force was applied, I stepped away from social media.

I put my 25 million connections across different platforms on hold, exchanging the useful and the useless (read: mundane or inane) chatter for quiet and replacing the incessant online chatting with people I’ve never met with more high-quality, in-person time.  An observation I made to CBC Sunday Edition regarding this was read (in part) on their show last week.  It is at 43:43 of hour 1 and was in response to this interesting piece - The anti-democratic reign of Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon.

I also went on a diet from mainstream media.  With President Trump dominating most conversation channels any, I didn’t think I would be missing much.

And in the blessed quiet that ensued, I applied a technique not often used in my industry to explore the delays plaguing my project.

As an uber-left-brained, ultra Type A personality, it is sometimes difficult for me to get the analytical side of my brain to just shut up, stop analyzing everything around it and allow the creative right side of my brain to have a go at something that intense logic alone can’t figure out.

Using a process that borrows from techniques that artists use to maximize their potential, I set about exploring the dilemma that plagued my teams.

The process goes like this, utilizing key strengths of each side of the brain in a structured, strategic way:

  1. First Insight - Back away from deep analysis of the problem and explore key insights with the right side of the brain (non problem-solving mode), allowing the brain to wander “aimlessly” around the problem.
  2. Saturation - Overload the left side of the brain with the background data, context, rules, constraints and other things associated with the issue but but do not try to solve the problem.
  3. Incubation - Wander away from the problem and work on anything BUT the problem, allowing the right side of the brain to creatively wander through the space, unimpeded by the analytical, logical side of the brain that insists it has the solution (an assertion unproven to this point).
  4. Illumination – AHA moments arrive suddenly and out of nowhere as the issue that has been bothering you suddenly has solutions presented from the creative side of the brain.
  5. Verification – Bring the left side of the brain back into play and verify that the AHA solution is appropriate, relevant, viable and actionable and use the left side of the brain to create a new strategy, guided by the creativity from the right side of the brain.

For a deeper explanation of how this process works, I recommend Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: The Definitive, 4th Edition.

In the clarity and grey-matter wandering that ensued, I came up with 12 sins regarding outcomes that were being committed by all parties involved in my current project and armed with the list, I presented them to inside and outside teams this morning.

Here are the 12 sins – how many are you or your organization(s) guilty of?

  1. Unknown Outcomes – they have been defined but for a variety of reasons, are unknown to some key individuals or have been forgotten by them.
  2. Hidden / Obfuscated Outcomes – an outcome important to one or more people has been intentionally hidden from some people for reasons that benefit the owners of those outcomes.
  3. Poorly Defined Outcomes – almost better than having no outcomes but potentially also more dangerous than having no defined outcomes as they are missing key elements of evidenced-based assumptions, specific measurable components and date-sensitive completion targets.
  4. Undefined Outcomes – some people didn’t even bother to define them for their team(s).
  5. Conflicting Outcomes – outcomes from different individuals / teams are running at odds with each other because of execution or interpretation.
  6. Competing Outcomes – poor prioritization or focus has allowed outcomes to compete within the brains of a single person or team.
  7. Fluid Outcomes – outcomes that constantly change based on observation, perspective and the current weather forecast
  8. Rigid Outcomes – outcomes that should be redefined when data, context and situation call for an intelligent adjustment but people get locked on course, even if they are heading for an open pit.
  9. Immeasurable Outcomes – outcomes based on fuzzy things, emotions or feelings instead of being evidenced-based.
  10. Passive Outcomes – from the “I hope this happens / works” camp even when the data screams otherwise (if there is any data at all).
  11. Aggressive Outcomes – the steam roller approach, ignoring the negative impact on people, organizations and anyone / anything else touched by the results of such outcomes.
  12. Timid Outcomes – leaving important things on the table, unexplored and unleveraged, because a lack of assertiveness, confidence or information.

In my early morning presentations this morning, I could have hammered and insulted everyone involved by actually pointing out who was guilty of one or more of these sins (myself included).

But great teams don’t need to be lectured – they know how to solve their own problems once they are pointed out.  The book Are Your Lights On?: How to Figure Out What the Problem Really Is, written over 20 years ago but still relevant, has some useful information on how to encourage intelligent people to solve their own problems.

Having set my team back on course towards a successful completion of the tasks at hand, I took a look at what is trending on mainstream and social media this morning based on social media’s “what’s trending” links.

Let’s see … in the midst of the Harvey Weinstein debacle, I see that Ellen DeGeneres lit up social media with this item.

@TheEllenShow: Happy birthday, @KatyPerry! It’s time to bring out the big balloons!

Sure it’s only in jest and we are hypersensitive about everything these days.  However, if a privileged Caucasian male (a certain President comes to mind) said this, Twitter would burn to the ground in indignation.

Consistency and fairness are important when we are addressing issues in our world, are they not?

Meanwhile, HBO severed ties with Mark Halperin over his own indiscretions and yet defended a comedy that they ran a few years ago that showed a child drinking from a penis-shaped water bottle. 

Apologies for the offensive picture but it is offered to make a point.

I also explored this in the post Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson and Ignorance Run Rampant.

I see also that Hillary’s “The Election Was Stolen from Me” tour continues to trend highly and is either a form of therapy for her  (Hillary Clinton’s Book Tour Is a Dose of Much-Needed Therapy for Her Fans) or a source of anger (Fear and loathing on Hillary Clinton's grievance tour).

And finally, I see that the US Intelligence community continues to control the nation as President Trump acquiesces and allows certain JFK assassination reports to remain classified.

Not to be outdone, President Trump continues to stoke fears in many that we are all about to be wiped out in a mushroom cloud.  Whether that cloud is nuclear or ego-based is still being debated.

On the social media side, I see a lot of conspiracy rants and an invitation to determine what my porn star name would be or if an algorithm can guess my age based on my song interests.

There are many useful and important conversations happening in social media but items similar to the ones shown above are the things being fed to many people who consume what is put in front of them rather than choosing to selectively digest that which improves their lives and the lives of others.

It’s too bad that irrelevant and nonsensical drivel drown important things out and that such noise prevents many people from seeing clarity in their own personal or professional situations.

It would be entertaining to reexamine measurable outcomes of society-at-large as it pertains to social and mainstream media, politicians, business and the like.

I would but I have accepted the caveat that such analysis will unlikely move the masses who prefer to deflect attention away from their own worries, laziness, ignorance, apathy or sense of inadequacy (the latter often being untrue or unwarranted) by filling their mind with such distractions.

The Bottom Line

Clarity matters and often to obtain it, we need to create a gap between ourselves and the noise that prevents us from acquiring it.  Unfortunately, too many people are afraid of quiet, solitude and the chatter within their minds.

That’s too bad, because many people have great things aching to be revealed that could make a tremendous, positive difference on this planet.

Measurable outcomes matter and those who refuse to define and communicate them appropriately often bore and irritate others who get tired of hearing them moan about results desired but not assertively, appropriately created.

Consistency in addressing our world problems matters – we can’t be offended by what people say or do if we say or do similar things, somehow holding people to a higher standard that we refuse to hold ourselves to.

And what we fill our brain with matters in regards to the results we create for ourselves and others.

What do you fill your brain with?

I wonder if your answer and your actions express the same thing.

Does it even matter?

In service and servanthood – create a great day because merely having one is too passive an experience.