Objective-level review of outcome pictures

Any outcome on the objective must match exactly one cell. Pictures in different cells generate different emotions. Pictures in different cells might lead to taking different paths in strategy, controls, or consultation. No pictures are missing.

What to read first: Picture review Prove and consolidate the outcome pictures

New to this: This series assumes you have no prior knowledge. It does not use technical terms without explaining them first.

When you have reviewed each of the cells for an objective, look at the way the pictures work as a whole to paint a range of alternative success and failure levels. For each objective, consider whether each of these goals have been met:

Any outcome on the objective must match exactly one cell.

Would any real-world outcome on the objective match one of the cells? None? Pictures in two or more cells?

What won’t work is having a well-defined real-world result (however unlikely) that could equally land on two or more of the outcome cells you’ve defined. In that case, re-write one or more of the outcome pictures, so that the reality will match exactly one of them. You may also find that one of your objectives is actually two different objectives, in which case you edit the objectives list and split your existing pictures.

Unit Objective: Prevent and avoid actual or perceived unit violations of organisation values and codes of conduct Unit Objective: Prevent and avoid actual or perceived unit violations of organisation values and codes of conduct
Success/Failure level Outcome pictures Success/Failure level Outcome pictures
Success All team members have been kept aware of expectations by unit leaders and remain fully aware of them at the end of the year. BECOMES Success Payroll unit behaviours have been well within values and codes. Any exceptions by individual team members were addressed decisively. Awareness of expectations is entrenched.

If there are no cells anywhere for a potential real-world result, you will need to create at least one outcome picture that contains that result. Finding the right cell for it may lead to re-writing some existing outcome pictures, or to moving existing pictures between cells.

Pictures in different cells generate different emotions.

When looking at each picture separately, you tested whether each one instantly produced an emotion.

You are now testing the line of pictures representing a range of outcomes on one objective. You now need to be sure that different pictures along the line produce different emotions. That emotion should correspond (roughly) with the descriptor for the level of success or failure (Success, Qualified Success, etc.) But the important thing is that you can differentiate the emotional tone of pictures in different cells.

If you don’t feel that, you will have trouble communicating the relative importance of different risks. The solution is to move pictures around, or perhaps to redraw some, and to draw new pictures for any cells that are left empty.

When you have multiple pictures in one cell, representing one success level for one objective, it’s good if all of those pictures produce a similar emotion.

Pictures in different cells might lead to taking different paths in strategy, controls, or consultation.

Look at the pictures in two adjacent cells on the same objective. If you are using sub-objectives, look at two cells on the same sub-objective.

They might be pictures of desirable good outcomes, bad outcomes, or something in between.

The key question is whether the difference in their desirability is such that one day you might do something to change the likelihood of one outcome but not of the other.

A similar question is whether the difference in those two outcomes is big enough to raise a concern about the possibility of one, but not about the possibility of the other.

To put it another way, are they really different outcomes for the purpose of making decisions managing your unit?

If the difference between the outcomes would never lead to any practical difference in what anyone does, there is no use in keeping them separate. They should be combined.

In the first instance you will move one or more pictures from one cell to the other. That could leave the ‘source’ cell empty.

Otherwise, the empty cell could be filled with new pictures. You may run into the same problem with new pictures.

An empty cell is normal practice at the extreme ends of the outcome range. For Danger objectives, there is often no useful picture for outcomes ‘Far better than expected’. For Benefit objectives, there is often no picture for the ‘worst imaginable’ outcome, beyond the most disappointing ‘failure’ outcome.

Another way forward is to merge the cells, so that the line of outcomes on the objective is shortened.

Merging cells is trivial if you have dropped the pre-defined outcome levels used to guide the initial drawing of pictures.

Merging cells is also possible even with the pre-defined outcome levels as part of your structure. In a matrix format, you simply merge the matrix cells containing the pictures, while maintaining separate levels in the outer frame:

No pictures are missing.

For each kind of picture in the row, is there a related picture in each cell that is one level better and one level worse? For example, if the ‘Success’ cell includes ‘operate within the approved budget’, is there something like ‘Operate within budget, with some explainable exceptions’ in the adjacent ‘Qualified Success’ cell?

In the following payroll example, there is a gap to the extent that the Success pictures do not refer to benefits from the change project. Benefits were important enough to mention in the Excellence and Qualified Success pictures.

Unit Objective: Move to a new payroll system and service arrangements with long term benefits Unit Objective: Move to a new payroll system and service arrangements with long term benefits
Success/Failure level Outcome pictures Success/Failure level Outcome pictures
Excellence The payroll unit is the effective leader on the change, more so than the nominal project manager. As a result, greater benefits will be delivered sooner, at lower capital cost. STAYS AS Excellence The payroll unit is the effective leader on the change, more so than the nominal project manager. As a result, greater benefits will be delivered sooner, at lower capital cost.
Success New system and service on track, and not delayed by factors controlled within the payroll unit.

Payroll unit has participated productively in the change project.

BECOMES Success New system and service on track. Benefits and delivery schedule have not been compromised by factors controlled within the payroll unit.

Payroll unit has participated productively in the change project.

Qualified Success The change project is still expected to produce benefits. There has been some delay caused by payroll unit issues. STAYS AS Qualified Success The change project is still expected to produce benefits. There has been some delay caused by payroll unit issues.

You don’t always need to draw a full line of comparable pictures. However, asking the question about missing pictures may lead to filling gaps that need to be filled.

As with picture and cell review, you might find there are other random changes you want to make while working through these questions. When you’re happy with one objective, proceed to the next objective, until you have passed the tests for all the objectives.


Next article for Managers

Review of the whole picture collection

Sometimes a positive objective is the complement of a negative objective, so the two lines of outcomes can be merged into one sequence.

New to this: This series assumes you have no prior knowledge. It does not use technical terms without explaining them first.

Previous article for Managers

Picture review

Review each picture on its own. Each picture must be fully defined. Each picture must describe the outcome, not something the on the way to the outcome. Each picture must describe the outcome, not an indicator of the outcome. A picture may refer to future prospects as they will look at the end of the planning period. Each picture must become factually true or false, regardless of point of view. Each picture should produce an emotion, instantly. The picture should match the way the year is remembered in the future. Each picture shows the period outcome, not a specific incident during the period. The period outcome can be an accumulation of specific incidents. If you keep the success and failure levels, make sure the picture matches the level.

New to this: This series assumes you have no prior knowledge. It does not use technical terms without explaining them first.

Parent articles

Prove and consolidate the outcome pictures

Check similar pictures appearing for multiple objectives. Review each picture on its own. Review the pictures in each cell. Review the line of outcome pictures for each objective. Review the collection of outcome pictures as a whole. Sub-objectives can be useful. Small is beautiful. Appearance counts.

New to this: This series assumes you have no prior knowledge. It does not use technical terms without explaining them first.

Index to the topic Risk in work unit business planning

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