A Matter of Results

It seems we are obsessed with results.  We conduct life as if results are the only things that matter. To most results by any means are results just the same.  We manage by results, we define problems by results, we define our job by results, we make individuals accountable for results, we cause harm to others in the pursuit of results, we cheat and lie to show results, and we even define our self by the results we get.  Just look around and you will see that results—and getting them now—are all that matters.

Correspondingly we are blinded by our single-minded focus of attention to results.  This fixation actually keeps us from understanding that results are the effects of a system or process. We don’t see systems or processes we only see results.  Any given system will produce an array of many different results that themselves will vary over time, making things appear more complex.   Thus the complexity of our world seemingly increases as the number of results we attend to increases.

You would think that with our obsession for results we’d know how to analyze and interpret the outcomes (i.e. the results) we get.  But as a goat would say, na!

We are so reactionary to results that we haven’t the inquisitiveness, the interest or the time to invest in understanding the associated cause system—to learn systems thinking and statistical thinking.  Consequently we are unable to understand the results we get, irrespective of whether they are favorable or unfavorable.  Misreading and misinterpretation of outcomes/data is epidemic!

When results are favorable we believe we are in control of things and thus expect more of the same by doing more of the same.  But, when results are unfavorable we simply exhort others to get better results.  We set higher goals and raise standards thinking that this will lead to better results—after all isn’t everyone concerned about results!  Using results to get better results is clearly not reflective of sound logic; yet it is a popular practice.  America’s focus on raising standards and instituting accountability measures for results in education and the widespread use of management-by-measurable-objective in business illustrate this point.

Again what’s missing is an understanding that results are the effects of a process/system.  Therefore without a method for learning about the system itself a hope for better results is merely wishful thinking.  It is not reflective of systems thinking, statistical thinking and critical thinking.  Absent of this thinking, action taken could not be based on a critically thought out plan.  I am reminded of the adage, a narrow focus of attention leads to a larger measure of heedlessness.

Why do we continue in this way, making things worse?

42 thoughts on “A Matter of Results

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  2. Some of the confusion here may lie with obsession with the bottom line.

    If the money’s coming in, we feel OK, we feel we are growing. If not we feel we are stuck.

    A more useful measure may be knowledge, and what we understand. Do we understand our business better, our strengths, our weak points, what our competitors are doing, what niche offerings we have, who our audience are, what their concerns and priorities are ?

    So often we are not that good at looking at our business as a customer would, and get carried away by our own invective.

    So whether we call it success, business growth or progress, we need to look at how we measure it.

    Balanced Scorecard is one way to do that, and there is a great deal that has been written on the subject, and many success stories to show for it.

    Perhaps one recent example of a balanced scorecard approach is BP, in the wake of the oil spill. With such a seismic shift in public perception and a huge PR campaign to conduct, they have shifted many operational procedures to have security and safety much higher up the agenda.

    Another is Toyota, with the various mechanical failures. Short term their admissions are very damaging. Longer term, Toyota customers know they will be treated with absolute honesty.

    Or even the BA Airbus engine failure. Rolls Royce took the approach they would investigate then fix the problem.

    All these customers have customer loyalty way up the Balanced Scorecard list of priorities.

    And when we then look at operational process, it’s quite easy to start embedding genuine and customer focused values into business process.

    If we have the will to do so !

    Peter Jones, Director
    Blue Oyster Product Development

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