TLS Continuum Part 62: What if? Imagine the future

In last week’s blog I discussed the response to the question What Is? The intent was to present you some tools on how to determine what your organization looks like in its current state. It is that determination which leads to the rest of the process.

Ogilvie and Liedtka, in their book Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers, call the second stage in the process what if? It asks you and your organization to open your minds to what could be. What do you want your organization to look like going forward? It challenges you to explore all the potential solutions. It invites you to think out of the box as to potential solutions to the problem you are trying to resolve.

The challenge begins with the use of a tool called brainstorming. The brainstorming effort begins with the selection of a diverse set of team members. The members of this team should represent a cross functional collection of everyone who touches the process from employees, management and the customer. The team then takes the problem or challenge we determined from last weeks effort in what is? You want to complete the brainstorming from a variety of tools looking at the issue. In each case you want to look at the solutions from three perspectives. The first is what is the stakeholder’s desired outcome. What does the customer want? The second criteria is how do we measure the success of the effort and finally and equally important what are the outcomes that need to be avoided. We can achieve this by the utilization of trigger questions, analogies, and change perspectives.

With the chosen solution in hand we move to the napkin pitch. This is not the typical elevator pitch we hear about all the time. This takes our solution and looks at it from the point of view of the need, what benefit does it bring to the process how are we going to execute it and what is the rationale behind it. It provides you with the basis for some of the tools that are coming into play in the later stages. The solution then must be turned into concrete efforts to resolve the problem you are facing. You begin by gathering the resources that the solution requires definitive process steps.

One simpler way of doing this is through the use of a Goal Tree. The next step therefore is to layout the journey itinerary if you will. What steps are we going to take to try and get to that end destination as nebulous as it is? We can do this through the use of Dettmer’s Goal Tree[i]. The Goal Tree clearly lays out that roadmap. The Goal Tree requires you systematically review the problem. It begins with looking at the Goal or your anticipated solutions. It not only asks you what the intended solutions are but it asks you to take the search a step further. Once you have established the objective you must then take the next step and determine what has to be present in order for you achieve that goal. These represent the critical success factors, which without their presence you can’t reach that goal.

The critical success factors section of the Goal Tree asks you to determine the three factors, which you have to have in place in order to consider that you have the right solution. It poses the question that in order to reach the solution I must have the critical success factors in place. It is absolutely critical that you carry your identification of these three factors to the widest audience possible. Like the goal statement the first factors that may come to mind may not be the best possible concepts. The Goal Tree then moves down the hierarchy to the next level. It is in this factor that you ask yourself further questions regarding the process. Follow me here a bit. 

       You began the completion of the Goal Tree by asking the question, what is the solution for the problem at hand? Then your next question is what are the critical success factors, which will indicate that we have reached that goal? These are the factors that must be there in order for us to reach that goal. This is not the end of the process however.

Think of it in this fashion. In order to have (goal) I must have (critical success factors. In order to create the critical success factors I must have  (necessary conditions). 

     If you know what the goal is and you know what critical success factors equal success, what has to be present to reach that level. In order to achieve this state the necessary conditions become the establishment of a working system to source, identify and recruit these critical human capital assets that are needed by the organization to sustain it through the years to come.

The if stage allows us to fully explore the options available to the organization along with the creation of the required data development that is incumbent in the measure stage of the DMAIC process. It then opens the door to enter the third stage of the Design for Growth/TLS Continuum effort. We move to What Wows stage in which we strive to engage the stakeholders in the outcome.

[i] Dettmer, William. The Logical Thinking Process. ASQ Press, Milwaukee: 2007. Page 72-88

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