Risk in work unit business planning: Degrees of success and failure

In this article:
Seven levels of outcome The organisation’s perspective on the seven levels

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Seven levels of outcome

For each of the objectives, you define about seven possible levels of outcome success and failure. These are the best seven levels to start with.

Success/Failure level
Far better than expected Unplanned outcomes better than planned
Excellence
Success Planned outcome, the minimum that can be called success
Qualified Success Unplanned outcomes worse than planned
Partial Success
Failure
Worst imaginable

The seven levels include three that represent success. Two are better than planned, and one (‘Success’) represents exactly the target outcome to which annual business planning is directed. That leaves four lower levels of outcome that are not so good. The four levels of negative outcome is probably similar to any consequence scale you were given as an example. If the one you were given has five levels, but the lowest level of consequence is ‘negligible’, that’s substantially equivalent to ‘Success’.

It’s best to keep this style of column labels and not to simply replace them with wording from elsewhere. Wording like ‘medium’ or ‘severe’ is not equivalent and not helpful. The recommended column labels take a definite point of view. That point of view is from unit’s organisational purpose and business plan. Labels such as ‘medium’ or ‘severe’ suggest some sort of universal scale of ‘badness’, but exactly how ‘bad’ a ‘medium’ consequence might be will shift according to the point of view from which you are looking. That kind of squishiness will be of no help in looking your boss calmly in the eye.

The organisation’s perspective on the seven levels

These short headings are intended to correspond with the following organisation views of your annual unit outcomes. These are views back from the end of the year.

Success/Failure level Organisational view
Far better than expected The unit was never expected to bring this kind of boost to the organisation. Unplanned outcomes better than planned
Excellence The unit should just keep it coming.
Success The unit should continue on course, and try to improve. Planned outcome, the minimum that can be called success
Qualified Success The unit should carry on, but avoid repeating that ‘qualification’ next year. Unplanned outcomes worse than planned
Partial Success The unit needs to focus on those weak areas, and consider necessary changes.
Failure Something about the unit or its manager must change fundamentally.
Worst imaginable The organisation should never have started on the path that led to the unit as it became.

If you are unsure whether a given outcome picture represents ‘Partial Success’ (or any other level), you can resolve the level by anticipating the organisation’s view of the outcome and matching that view in this table.

This reference table includes relevant brainstorming questions and filters for answers for each success and failure level.


Next article:

Risk in work unit business planning: Capturing outcome pictures at each level

The picture of Success What could be better than Success? The organisation’s worst nightmare may be about you: Worst imaginable outcomes Intermediate outcomes Realism

Previous article: Risk in work unit business planning: Priorities within risk management

Index to the series

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