Leadership -Connecting with (your) people to improve results. Step 7: Does cause-and-effect matter?

Posted by Lori Michele Leavitt in Leadership | No Comments »

In this series we are talking about connecting – connecting to people, connecting people to the business results you want, and getting those results.

I’ve noted that as you work through this series you are bound to run into questions (I’ve opened up Ask Lori. for questions to me currently at no cost to you) and bottlenecks…

In this post I address a common question that often becomes a bottleneck, as it seems complex: determining up front the cause and effect relationship between objectives in your Strategy:

Question: Does cause-and-effect matter? When is it critical (figuring it out is slowing us down)?

Answer: It depends.  Please read the 5 considerations below.  With these I will clarify for you what “cause and effect” is and how it applies to this Series. Then I’ll clarify when it is important and urgent, when it is important but not urgent, and when you can skip it altogether.

What is cause-and-effect? In terms of this Series…when you look at any outcome, such as a financial result, you are looking at an effect. As you identify causes for critical outcomes (or effects) you will typically see a pattern.

How is cause-and-effect used by Leaders? See above. When you now start measuring those causes, especially if you are measuring a few otherwise seemingly random indicators that are shown to have a relationship with the outcome, they will help “indicate” (aka as Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs) that you are on a path toward the outcome.

Why does cause-and-effect matter? See above. If you want that outcome – great! If you don’t, you’ve now given yourself a chance to shift the path and change the outcome.
When do you need to identify cause-and-effect? See above. Naturally, then, the best time to identify the causes of the effects, or outcomes, you want is early on…when you first define and write outcomes down in your Strategy Plan.

So, yes, understanding is important. If you are moving through a challenge right now, it is also urgent. If all is going fine and you are very clear already that everyone is doing the right thing right, then you can skip this process.

What tools can be used to help with cause-and-effect? A quick and timely way to identify cause-and-effect is the process of Strategy Mapping. This process, usually supported by a software application, aids the mapping first of all Strategic Objectives to buckets such as “Learning/Innovation,” “Internal Process,” “Customer” and “Financial” (also see Balanced Scorecard methodology and software) followed by the mapping of the cause and effect between those Strategic Objectives.

If cause-and-effect is not defined during Strategic Planning is it too late? No. It is never too late to identify and measure those actions and thoughts that will likely lead to (aka, they “indicate”) that you are likely on a path to a particular outcome. In fact, it may take too long to perform this mapping if it is not readily apparent what causes what. Often management is a bit out of touch with what is really happening day to day. I recommend doing the best you can as part of Strategy and then go through a Discovery process to gain understanding and commitment to the actions (and mindsets) that are needed to become and stay aligned with Strategy.

In my experience doing both is the only way to execute Strategy and meet goals in the year they are set, if any part of your Strategy requires a stretch from status quo.

If you keep these considerations of cause-and-effect in mind, you will lead your organization to success; You’ll do the right things right. If you are not sure that is happening at all levels, then I encourage you to go through a Strategy Mapping and Discovery process.

To help you catch up in the Series, here’s a recap of prior posts:

In Step 1 you selected up to three critical strategic themes or objectives.

In Step 2 you mapped these themes to your Strategy so that key objectives can be prioritized and contrasted.

In Step 3 you prioritized so that you’d be sure that what is most important gets done.

In Step 4 you considered your roadblocks and took action so to clear your path.

In Step 5 you gathered critical materials that will help you connect people to Strategy, and results.

And in Step 6 you looked specifically at the performance review process and performance management.

I care about how you are doing with these Steps and the health of your organization in general. Please feel free to comment. See you in about a week for the next post!

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