If you have ever heard yourself asking this question: “What the (bleep) is going on? Since the kick off on this project, everyone seems to be working in different directions. Didn’t we all agree on what we were going to do?” Well, maybe … and maybe not.

If the team got started without deliberately defining the outcome, each team member may have thought they understood where the project was going. The trouble comes when each person has a slightly different understanding of the target outcome.

If you’ve got a troubled project and suspect that there isn’t clear agreement on what everyone is working toward, it’s worth taking a minute (or 60) to ensure that everyone is aiming at the same outcome.

A Clearly Defined Outcome

Think about the outcome of a project as statement that starts with “In the end, we will…”

  • The outcome is how you want things to turn out.
  • The outcome’s definition is not a detailed one, but it is described well enough that the team can use it to guide and focus their work.
  • It probably isn’t a tangible product, but the outcome describes the results of achieving things that are tangible or measurable.

Example: In the end, we will improve customers’ experience with our service department through friendly engagement, faster response time, and reliable advice.

This outcome defines the change you’re after (improved customer service) and what the change will look like (friendly, fast, reliable).

Getting to Clarity

If your team is operating without a clearly defined outcome, here are some steps to get one.

  • In a team meeting, have the team leader write the outcome as they understand it on a whiteboard.
  • Have the team discuss any differences of opinion and what the outcome should look like.
  • Mark up the original definition.
  • Review the marked-up text. Come to consensus on each change. And, write a new, clean version.
  • Conclude the meeting with each person affirming their understanding and agreement to the final version.

Look for my next blog in the “Fixing Problem Projects” series, which will be about establishing objectives that will keep the team focused on achieving the outcome and drive measurable results.