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Paint a Picture of Your Project Results

You have heard over and over that you need a large toolbox so that you can grab the right tool for each situation. In addition, you need to be creative and use some of your tools that were intended for one purpose for a different one. For example, using a screw driver to open a paint can. Definitely not the inventor’s intention, but it works. Over the past few weeks a number of things have led me to thinking about how teams can do a better job helping their business stakeholders elevate the conversation from a solution to desired business outcomes. You need to help them get clarity around the problem or opportunity they are trying to solve and more importantly the outcomes or results they want. This is not always easy as you know. I thought of a tool normally used to help build a companies envisioned future. Why just used it at the highest level? Why not use it for every project?

A common scenario for many of you is your team is handed a solution from the business and they want you to implement it. As someone that has been practicing business analysis you know you need to understand their problem, needs, and desired outcomes. You have already implemented solutions that your stakeholder wanted just to find out it was not what they needed. I heard a speaker the other day joke about how he has built over $10,000,000 of “shelfware”! You know you have to get to the why. But, jumping in with both feet and asking why 5 times can end up putting the stakeholder on the defense or feeling frustrated with you for thinking they did not already have this idea fleshed out. Instead of jumping in with the “5 Whys” I try to put things back on me. To start the conversation I say something like “most likely we can deliver that. First help me understand how I know my team will be successful if we implement that solution.” I quickly get to questions that help answer what success looks like once implemented. I don’t jump in trying to get SMART goals/objectives yet. That is important and needed, just not yet. I want them to paint a picture for me of what life is like once we implement a solution. And this is where you can use a tool for its unattended purpose.

From the Jim Collin’s Vision Framework you could use the steps to helping define vivid descriptions of what a company’s future looks like. Over the past few years I have done work with helping define my company’s and other organizations’ vision using the Jim Collin’s Framework. Defining vivid descriptions is always my favorite part of the process because you have to be able to visualize the picture you are trying to paint. If you close your eyes you can actually see the vivid description come to life! And, all team members can see it too, helping to make sure everyone is headed for the same goal. Here is part of the definition that explains what it is.

Vivid Description. …an envisioned future needs what we call vivid description – that is, a vibrant, engaging, and specific description of what it will be like to achieve the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Think of it as translating the vision from words into pictures, of creating an image that people can carry around in their heads. It is a question of painting a picture with your words. Picture painting is essential for making the 10-to-30-year BHAG tangible in people’s minds.

For an example, here is Sony’s Vivid Description in the 1950’s:

We will create products that become pervasive around the world.… We will be the first Japanese company to go into the U.S. market and distribute directly.… We will succeed with innovations that
U.S. companies have failed at – such as the transistor radio.… Fifty years from now, our brand name will be as well-known as any in the world…and will signify innovation and quality that rival the most innovative companies anywhere.… “Made in Japan” will mean something fine, not something shoddy.

When defining a vivid description for your project’s outcomes you should use the questions below that Jim Collin’s outlines in his framework:

To be a good vivid description you need to answer yes to these questions:

  1. Does the Vivid Description conjure up pictures and images of what it will be like to achieve your vision? If the vivid description does not create a clear picture in your mind’s eye, then it is not vivid enough.
  2. Does it use specific, concrete examples and analogies to bring the vision to life, rather than bland platitudes?
  3. Does it express passion, intensity, and emotion?
  4. When reading the vivid description, do you think, “Wow, it would be really fantastic to make all this happen. I would really want to be a part of that, and I’m willing to put out significant effort to realize this vision!”?

The last one is the one I like most. You need full engagement from the team to be successful. Just having an objective of increase sales by 20% is so blah and does not really get people excited. Now you do need to get to some measureable results. Just get there by discussing the vivid description of what success looks like.

All the best,

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