Example of outcome pictures with sub-objectives

What to read first: Sketching outcome pictures at each level of success and failure

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The ‘sub-objectives’ break down the main objective into components. In this layout, the sub-objectives are shown across the table in green. There are separate outcome pictures for sub-objective and for each level of success and failure, where pictures are needed.

Unit Objective: Maximise the timeliness and accuracy employee payments employees in line with proper management decisions and legal entitlements
Success/Failure level Outcome pictures
Paying on time Accuracy Authorisation Timeliness of response
Far better than expected
Excellence All pays were in all bank accounts and accessible by 7 am on the due day. There is sufficient documentation of processes and reviews to show that there are no errors that were not detected and corrected promptly during the year. Almost no errors were ever made, so corrections were hardly involved. Auditable processes demonstrate that there have been no unauthorised payments during the year. Until processes change, there is no potential for that.
Success There have been no missed paydays due to payroll team failures. There may have been some isolated bank problems that delayed employee access to pay deposits (not due to the payroll team). There were no known systematic errors in the determination of pay entitlements. Evidence strongly supports the view that no systematic errors exist.
The overwhelming majority of payroll transactions were correct first time. Processes in place will have detected and corrected virtually all incorrect payments and disbursements within a reasonable time.
Unauthorised payments have almost unknown over the year, and there is almost no potential for any of them to be found in future. Almost all authorisations and requests reaching the unit by advertised cut-off times were processed for the next payday. On the few occasions that was not possible, processing was sensibly prioritised and notice was given to anyone affected.
Qualified Success There were a couple of avoidable events in which some employees were paid late, but within 48 hours of the usual time. There were a couple of systematic errors resulting from excusable policy interpretation errors. All were resolved promptly. There is no evidence of further issues yet to be found.
Processes maintained over the year will have detected and corrected the great majority of errors. There are a few categories in which any errors should have been prevented or detected, but in which it’s possible that some random errors remain.
A couple of unauthorised payments were made during the year, but they were detected and corrected within a reasonable time. The cases were isolated and the causes were excusable. Most processing during the year was completed on time. Only a few individuals were inconvenienced by the exceptions.
Partial Success Most paydays were achieved on the legal day. There were multiple preventable exceptions affecting large numbers of employees. There has been an ongoing problem with one or more aspects of pay determination. The problem is known and is being worked through at the end of the year.
Most pays are correct. There is a steady stream of errors identified from employee reports, audits, or random observation.
There has been a pattern of unauthorised payments over the year. That pattern is being worked through. Most processing has been complete for done for the next payday or for the following payday. There was a proportion of transactions that took longer.
Failure Repeated failure to pay employees on time, attributable to the payroll unit. Widespread or systematic errors in pays, due to negligence in the payroll unit. Some unauthorised payments are known to have been made during the year, and there is every reason to think there are many more waiting to be detected (OR, many have already been found by independent investigation). Processing has been so slow during the year that employees and managers now have no expectation that requests or authorisations will be processed in any specific amount of time.
Worst imaginable Organisation subject to legal or regulator intervention over failure to pay employees regularly.
There was substantial loss of workforce due to unreliability of pays, not recoverable within a single year. The reduction in workforce has put the viability of the organisation in doubt.

Parent articles

Sketching outcome pictures at each level of success and failure

For each objective, draw a picture of Success. Then draw an outcome better than Success. Then describe the worst imaginable outcomes. Lastly, fill in the intermediate outcome pictures for that objective. Each picture shows the unit’s success or failure for the year, as you will remember it. Each outcome picture is important, even if unlikely. After capturing the initial pictures, review the full collection for realism.

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