In our last post, we talked about how reviewing outcomes helps us handle changes to individual roles by making sure all the work is accounted for. At the end of that post, we mentioned the concept of shared outcomes. In our discussions so far, we’ve focused mostly on the idea that individual roles each have unique outcomes. For a large part, that’s true. People in most critical roles do have their own set of unique outcomes. Consistently producing those outcomes with excellence leads to job excellence.
But increasingly there are job situations, such as in sales, where small teams of people filling different roles share responsibility to produce key outcomes. One example might be a client-focused account team with the shared outcome of producing an “aligned and informed client.” Everyone on the team shares the responsibility of consistently producing that outcome.
Some people think that sharing might make the outcomes approach more confusing. But we’ve seen just the opposite. For small teams, this method is clarifying.
The team lead typically owns the outcome, just like he or she is responsible for the overall performance of the team. Each team member, in addition to his or her individual outcomes, also shares the production of that common outcome. In our example, everyone is continually focusing on doing his or her part to improve alignment with the client. Of course, that requires a bit of additional coordination and communication between team members. But that’s exactly what excellent performance demands and what top team leads expect.
Questions to ponder:
- Do your teams have shared outcomes? Are the team members clear on which outcomes they share and which they own individually?
One of the questions we frequently hear is “how do outcomes work when jobs change so frequently?”
It’s a great question. We live in a rapidly changing work world where jobs are constantly changing and evolving. Companies shift responsibilities between roles. Companies change strategies and add or subtract responsibilities from roles. All those factors lead to changes in the basic makeup of each critical role. So how do we handle those changes when using an outcome-based approach?
First let us set up a scenario and see how it works. Assume there are three critical positions, each with a unique set of outcomes—something like this:
|Role 1||Role 2||Role 3|
For simplicity, we’ve assumed no two roles share any outcomes and each role has exactly four outcomes.
Now the company decides to make a change and eliminate one position—role 3. Here’s the key question: what about the outcomes currently being produced by people in that role? Are those outcomes no longer needed because of some change in the overall strategy? Can they be produced by someone else, or will that overload that other role?
In this case, the company must look at outcomes I, J, K, and L. For each, a specific decision must be made. Perhaps one is no longer needed, one can be added to role 1 and two can be added to role 2. By evaluating the role at the outcome level, a more accurate assessment of the work is possible.
The opposite situation works equally well. Say a change in strategy points to the need for new outcomes and potentially a new role. Once the aspirational outcomes are clear, the following questions should be asked: Will these outcomes require a new role? Can they be picked up by the existing roles? Or can the existing roles share the responsibility to produce the new outcomes? Wait—shared outcomes? That’s a topic for another post.
Question to ponder:
- When you modify jobs, what process do you use to make sure all the work is accounted for?
What Do You Do with Outcomes?—Examining Your Job Designs
Here’s a bonus blog in our mini-series on what companies are doing with outcomes. In the previous blogs in this series, we’ve discussed using outcomes
- as the focal point for training design
- as the basis for equipping people with the right tools, processes, and information
- as the foundation for identifying potential candidates to hire
- as the target for coaching efforts designed to improve performance
But there is yet another use for outcomes that some companies are employing—as a key indicator of whether the breadth of job responsibilities is too small, too broad, or just about right.
In our experience, top performers in critical roles focus on anywhere from four to seven key outcomes. By extension, each of those key outcomes demands anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of the top performers’ work focus and energy. Interestingly, those top performers have told us that anything that falls below that threshold of focus and energy simply isn’t worth the time and effort. In other words, those things just don’t matter to success on the job.
How does knowing this help with evaluating job scope? Simple. After conducting a TOPS analysis and mapping the key outcomes of a role, leaders should stop and review the list of outcomes. If there are more than about seven key outcomes, chances are pretty good that at least a couple of them are performed so infrequently that they really aren’t critical to success. Having too many outcomes causes people to divide their time and attention too much to concentrate on the few things that really matter.
On the other end of the scale, if there are fewer than about four outcomes, it’s quite possible that the job is not broad enough to command the sustained attention of top performers. People want and deserve interesting jobs with a variety of components.
So when you are evaluating or designing jobs, take a look at the number of outcomes you are expecting from people in your critical roles. If there are four to seven, you’re right in the sweet spot from a job design perspective.
Questions to ponder:
- Do your top performers think their job scopes are about right? How do you know?