How ideas turn into outcomes

by Chris Potts, on 13 Aug 2019 3 min read

Mixing desk. Photo credit: Filip Barna (Unsplash)

In the first of a four-part opinion piece on 'Transforming ideas into outcomes at market-speed', enterprise investment specialist Chris Potts discusses how outcomes can come from a mix of different ideas.

Let’s begin with how everything ends, and talk about outcomes. People create outcomes they personally value, from an ever-evolving mix of stability and change. They may be driven by goals they have explicitly set, or by just doing things and seeing what happens. How innovative or predictable their choices may be, is up to the people themselves. Whenever people’s actions might impact the success of our enterprise, we are stakeholders in the choices they make.

Every enterprise exists to create outcomes, too, and usually has goals for the ones that they need – such as revenues, costs, compliance, continuity, customer delight, product innovation, and brand reputation. There are also interim goals for activities and outputs, as essential steps towards the outcomes themselves.

Enterprise outcomes, like people’s, come from the ongoing fusion of stability and change. For any goals that stability alone won’t achieve, we must take on the risks of investing in change. Some changes will always work better than others, and some will not work at all. Indeed, some may end up doing more harm than good. So, like everything else that people invest in, change is about goals, risks, and diverse probabilities. Being excellent and dynamic investors is vital, especially in fast-changing markets.

Ideas kick-start the investment process

An enterprise transforms ideas into outcomes through its end-to-end process of investing in change. Depending on how soon we need to accomplish our goals, the process must be almost instantaneous, or rapid, or slow. Speed-to-outcomes is key to momentum and choices, from the start of the process right through to the end.

Every change an enterprise invests in begins with a person who has an idea. If they choose to invest themselves in the idea, the process towards outcomes has already started. Otherwise, nothing will happen. So, if the process is working right from the start, people will distinguish ideas worth pursuing from ones that are best put aside, based on the outcomes that they and their enterprise most want to create.

Once an idea has kick-started the process, it will be mashed-up with other ideas, old and new – such as ideas for choosing which changes to invest in; for how to frame and design the best possible changes; for delivering changes at variable speeds; and for portfolio-managing investments in change. And, because our enterprise’s outcomes are all interrelated, each change we choose to invest in becomes a fragment of the big-picture story.

Creating joined-up outcomes from fragmented change

Investing in change is increasingly risky, yet more and more vital in achieving our goals. The volume and diversity of ideas keep on growing, and the pace of change gets faster and faster. The more innovative the ideas that take hold in our markets, the less familiar the changes that we need to invest in, and the more challenging the risks we must effectively manage.

Fragmented change is both a fact and a choice. Each change is always a distinctive initiative, a kind of ‘silo’ of aims and constraints. Many enterprises are also dividing up changes into faster-delivery fragments (most commonly, by using agile and scaled agile methods – which are themselves a mash-up of ideas, kick-started by one from the late 1950s).

Success, at turning ideas into outcomes, comes from an integrated approach to strategy, culture, architecture, and portfolio management. Strategy establishes the frame of reference for making and valuing investments. Culture both cooks up and eats the changes we invest in. Architecture provides the big picture of how best to mash-up all sorts of ideas. And, portfolio management is how we achieve all the outcomes we need, at the various speeds that we need them, while taking the least possible risks overall.

Photo credit: Filip Barna (Unsplash)

Read the next part in this series, where Chris considers why some ideas work better than others, and how investing in change is about managing probabilities…

Topics:Project ManagementInnovation ManagementChange & Transformation