Episode 26

#026 - Essentialism for Organizations

Published on: 1st February, 2021

Today we're back talking about Essentialism and Essential Intent, but with a focus on organizations.

Organizations are constantly struggling to balance moving towards the vauge-but-aspirational vision statements with bland-but-measurable objectives and measures. Vision statements may offer our teams the inspirational nudge they need to galvanize around a cause, but ultimately offer little guidance on our daily work. On the other side of the coin, objectives tend to be bland and rote, often disconnecting us from the broader "why" behind what we are doing.

In today's discussion, we talk about how Essentialism, applied at the organizational level may serve as an effective tool for leaders to help bridge the gap between the inspirational and concrete.

As will all leadership tools, there is nuance required for implementation (or even usefulness of the tool) - we'd love to hear your thoughts on whether you think Essentialism is a tool worth adding to your kit.

Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to hit the subscribe button or reach out at [email protected].

Transcript

Charles Knight 0:05

All right. Good afternoon, y'all. How you doing?

Robert Greiner 0:09

Hey, doing well, weeks almost over. So looking forward to the weekend,

Charles Knight 0:13

Weeks almost over we're like well into into the month feeling good. Robert, I think that pretty soon we're going to be 10% done with the year

Robert Greiner 0:23

When we record, next week we're we're going to talk about how February 8 is a magical date, which means the year is 10% over. And so you can get behind or ahead on your goals really quickly. And that date is crucial. As you're looking at account what you're accomplishing for the year, things like that.

Charles Knight 0:41

I'm excited about that episode. I think it's a little weird to think about the year in terms of percentages. That's really fascinating to me, so I'm stoked for that.

Yeah, I feel like we just came back from winter break, and 10% is gone. I think it really turns the heat on.

Robert Greiner 0:56

That's the point, right? It comes really fast. And I think that if you chunk up a year, and usually we think about quarters, or even months, but you can think before you know it, you get back, you get settled in, you get your email cleared out. And then you look up in the year is 10% over if you were intentional about that, what could you do? What could you get a jumpstart on that you normally aren't able to. So could be the difference between meeting your goals or not. So it's a really key time. And a lot of the people that I really look up to professionally, really focus on this time, they use the end of the year to tie up loose ends to do some planning. And then they hit it basically day one, they're coming in hot ready to go. And it's because this time is so critical.

Igor Geyfman 1:41

The heat

Charles Knight 1:41

is certainly on then Robert and I think I want to go back to a topic that we discussed previously, we talked about essentialism and the central intent, and one of our previous episodes. And a lot of our discussion really centered on the implementation of essential intent and essentialism on a personal level at a career and personal career growth level. And one of the things that I did a kind of side mentioned in that episode on is you can really use essentialism and essential intent for your team. Or if you have clients that ask for your help with these sort of things, you can work with your client on helping them define, you know, their essential intent, and what they want to do. And this is something that was introduced to me by one of our colleagues. And so he he developed the whole methodology around it. And I'm not going to go specifically into that methodology. But I do want to go through what does it mean to apply something like a essentialism at an organization rather than a personal level. And I think maybe the best way to introduce that is a scenario. And a lot of times an organization or a team, they'll be working on their day to day activities. And they'll speak in terms of we need to make this widget faster. Or we need to be able to support this particular service, or we need a new UI, or we need to migrate off of on premises infrastructure to cloud infrastructure, or, hey, we need to create new integrations. And all those things seem very practical. Yeah, we should do that. Like why not. But as you go deeper into the year, and you have more conversations, you start to maybe if you're not asking them out loud, maybe in your head, you're starting to ask them questions like, what should we prioritize? We have these things that we have to do, we're not going to be able to get them all done. Which one, which ones should get done all the way to, like sometimes almost an existential question of why are we even doing this? What's my role? I don't know if you've experienced that. But I'd like to hear your thoughts

Igor, I've got a question for you. Because

I, I think yes, I've been in these the scenario from a lot of the ones that you've laid out there. I think I've been in that place before. And I think if I think back to how I responded to those situations, it was to ask the question, like, Hey, what's the strategy here? Because oftentimes, I think I found myself like mired in the tactical day to day stuff, and lost the whole forest for the trees thing. And then that's typically when people stop start talking about, oh, hey, let's take a step back. What's the overall objective here? Or what's the guiding principles and strategies? I'm with you on this scenario? I would love your take on how essential intent might be different than objectives or strategy or even like a vision or a mission statement,

something like that.

Igor Geyfman 4:42

is one decision that answers:

Robert Greiner 5:42

And either in the book or in a blog post about the book, there's there, these two graphics, one is a sort of dot with a bunch of arrows coming out of it in random directions. And they're all roughly the same links. And I think what that graphically represents is an organization, a group of people, or a single person with doing multiple different things, haphazardly, ad hoc. And over time, if you think about physics, those vectors cancel each other out, and you stay in one place. And then the so that's a antipattern. That's Charles, what you were talking about before, and Igor, what you teed off on. And then the other graphic is that same dot with a really long arrow pointing north. And that implies that all of the individual vectors or human efforts or collective group effort is pointed in a single direction. And that's how massive change that's how goals are met. And so by just defining your essential intent, by having the decision that answers 100, smaller questions, people are much more likely, it's much easier to make those prioritization discussions around what you should be working on in a given day.

Igor Geyfman 6:54

And maybe we can just imagine

the like, we do this every episode. But we should imagine a two by two matrix. Y'all y'all knew where I was heading with this, we always bring back the two by two matrix. And one side of the matrix is bland, generic, and then inspirational on the other end. So that's those are the two boxes. And then on the other access, it's vague. And concrete, we have four combinations. We have we have something that's inspirational and vague. And most of the time, the way that I have experienced something that's inspirational in Vegas, probably something like a vision statement, I read a vision statement or a mission statement. And I'm like, Yeah, oh, boy, this is really gets me fired up. Operational components,

Robert Greiner 7:43

Most inspirational things I hear are vague, though. Like, it's almost a prerequisite at times.

Igor Geyfman 7:47

That there's like a vague nature to it. And so, and that's how I see a vision statement. And by the way, but there's only something wrong with it if you don't have something concrete to help support it. So let's go to the concrete side. So most companies have a vision statement. And then they're like, Oh, this is really vague, we should get pretty concrete. And so they'll implement something like management by objectives, KPIs, OKRs, goals, whatever it is, quarterly objectives. And that's the part of the matrix that's

Robert Greiner 8:17

bland, and concrete. Would you say that the act of making something concrete, even if you start from something in inspirational, or even aspirational, you run the risk of pushing it towards blandness?

Charles Knight 8:31

Yeah. And I think it's pretty common, right? If you're not, if you if inspirational is not a consideration in the crafting of your objectives, because you're looking for something more concrete, I think the the momentum takes them into the bland category.

Robert Greiner 8:50

So there's this sort of tug of war happening where in order to inspire, at times, you have to be concise, and clear and short, and maybe a little vague. And then as things become concrete in pursuit of that inspirational aspiration, you trend towards blandness?

Charles Knight 9:08

I have to say, I'm very skeptical at this point. Because I know exactly what you're gonna say it's Oh, essential intent is like the Goldilocks between vision and objectives. And I'm like, Dude, that seems like a lot of BS. It seems like something a consultant would say, in a two by two matrix to get people to throw money at them to help solve the problem, like I'm all in on essential intent when it comes to like individual because there's a lot of value and kind of soul searching for that unification that moves you forward thing. So I'm really curious about how you've seen this play out in practice. And can you really thread the needle? right between? Yeah. What was it inspirational and vague and bland? And I don't know. Yeah, I'm skeptical.

Robert Greiner 9:53

You're often

practicing for our next series, which is going to require a lot of disagreement and arguementation between us so

Charles Knight:

Gear it up. Yeah,

Robert Greiner:

this is good.

Igor Geyfman:

Me and Charles going at it.

Robert Greiner:

Okay, so I think we understand the framework. Yeah. The 2x2 matrix, we understand the polarities around vision and inspiration, and concreteness. Charles called bs immediately, which I like. Thank you for doing that. what he had to say about all that now, what's next?

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah. And Charles, by the way, is completely right. Essential intent is presented as the Goldilocks, it's not as vague as a vision statement. And it's also not as bland as a quarterly objective. And some of it really has to do with so how do we prevent things for going bland, and probably the thing that has the most effect on that is the time horizon, quarterly objectives, because they're constrained within a three month period, there's only so much change, you can affect three months at a time, or one month at a time. And so by the nature of the time scope, you're going to be imparting some level of blandness to it. And okrs very commonly are set at or under quarterly level. And so the way that essential intent works, it's not a replacement. You know, it's not, Hey, stop doing quarterly objectives, and stop having a vision statement. And just do your essential intent. The assertion for essential intent is that you have a vision statement that's vague, you have okrs, or some sort of objectives that are bland, this is a bridge for them, right? This fills in uncovered space that your team needs to make progress.

Charles Knight:

Is it just, is it just an intermediate time horizon? Because I'm with you on the vision is usually, you know, far off into the future, probably multigenerational in duration, length, quarterly objectives, there's a lot of space in there. So when is it just Hey, essential intent targets somewhere 5-10 years down the road as opposed to 100? Or a quarter? Or is there more to it than that,

when I really started to think about the factor of the time horizon, and its effect on this, this two by two eight, these polarities, we can say, between one and five years. That's the sweet spot for the essential intent. And most businesses can't operate. having their objectives be one year, like they have to break them down further into probably at least quarters, and most businesses break them down probably even on a monthly basis. So we're thinking about the way that the time horizon affects these polarities, essential intent to me is like a one to five year time horizon. And at some point, you may never achieve your vision. And that's part of why it's vague, like the vision should be written in such a way probably to withstand the test of time. But your essential intent should refresh when it's completed, just like your quarterly objectives should change within their time horizon, when the when they're completed.

Robert Greiner: reg Mckown says, That settles:

Igor Geyfman:

Let's take an organizational example, Robert.

Robert Greiner:

I believe they're saying because I agree there's a gap. There's a gap exactly where you said, there's a gap. And you're not trying to say we're in this Magic Quadrant. And this solves all your problems. I'm like, I'm tracking with you there. So bring it home and show because I can't quite put my finger on how essential intent at an organizational lens like solves that problem. We agree on the problem. Not sure we agree on the solution.

Igor Geyfman: book. And so it's the year is:

Robert Greiner:

So I think I'm tracking with you a vision statement. And I'm just looking up Wikipedia, it says is an inspirational statement of an idealistic, emotional future of a company or group. We talk, we hear this all the time. In the business, we call it, Northstar objective, things like that. And if you think about navigation, right, so you're Manning some kind of operating some kind of vehicle, vessel, whatever. And if you're sailing from point A to point B, you're like always off track, you're never like, exactly right, going the direction you need to go. And so there's constant course adjustments. And a navigation, there are these things called waypoints, which is basically the ending of one segment of your journey and the beginning of another. So it could be marked by an organization, it could be like a date, a milestone, when you're actually navigating could be like a landmark, or something like that. It sounds to me like essential intent really helps break up your vision statement, which is the longer journey, maybe the never ending journey into these manageable waypoints that you can use to achieve for one thing you can get there, it's measurable. And then once you get there, you can reassess and set your new direction and go to the next one by defining your next essential intent. And that could be one year, two years, five years, if you're thinking less than a year, you're you should be using an essential intent to inform your goal setting your objective setting, because you're probably a little bit too constrained. So it sits in, like you said, in that sweet spot between the vision which is purely inspirational, idealistic, emotional, and your concrete goals. This kind of helps set those waypoints in pursuit of your vision. Is that maybe another way to think about it?

Charles Knight:

I think that's a good interpretation. I want to hear from Charles and Charles Charles is still dubious, I think,

Robert Greiner:

I think it looks dubious.

Charles Knight:

I always looked dubious.

Robert Greiner:

That's true, too. You look a little bit more dubious, though.

Charles Knight:

I am less skeptical. I really like that, that the UK transformation minister, whatever you called it, that one is like, okay, like that, I can see is inspirational, and concrete. Like I give that to you. I, the next thing that I thought about is and this is where like, hey, maybe tell me a little bit about how a leader can help to elicit that from their team and the organization. Because now I'm more skeptical on there's a lot of research and work done in the space of strategic planning. That takes you from vision, aspirational, inspirational, never ending down to objectives, which you can then put metrics into that there's and in the nonprofit world, there's like vision mission, which is that middle thing between vision and these short term objectives. And now I'm just wondering, it's okay. is essential intent, just a rebranding of some of this other stuff that helps to fit the you know, That Goldilocks zone? Or is there truly something different in terms of the approach? Because I think everybody struggles with that, as I have these long term aspirations. I'm here right now doing tactical stuff. I need this middle way point. Essential intent you're proposing is one way of doing that there are others out there. So what do you think is special about essential intent that makes it worthwhile to use as opposed to some of the other tools that are out there?

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, and I'll give you an example. So I did end up using essential intent with some clients. And the biggest benefit that I discussed, when we were using it was like creating focus, like consistent amounts of focus. And it goes back to that, we make this one decision to not have to make decisions down the road. And so what essential intent allowed the client to do is, and when I say the client, it's actually really complex, because it was multiple product teams, and stakeholders from different functional departments trying to deliver really valuable things for their customers. And they, the reason why I brought in a essential intent is because they were making decisions at the functional level, or at the different product levels, that sometimes contradicted one another. And they did not have like a singular mindset. And the vision statement wouldn't help them, like the vision statement was vague enough, that it didn't help them really make decisions and help them maybe understand their values. And so by bringing in essential intent, you could test your decision making against essential intent. And I think that's something that's unique, because quarterly objectives usually are too small to be all encompassing, right, though, they'll usually focus on some small bit. But here, you could, at any level of the organization, check your decision against the essential intent. And I think that's the thing that sets it apart from other mechanisms that that I've come across.

Robert Greiner:

So I let me put together a couple things, because I think I'm finally tracking with you here. In the book, it talks about this, how will we know when we're done. So it is this intermediate state where, if you said the term polarity earlier, I think that makes perfect sense, right? Like a very typical polarity is breathing, you can breathe in and it feels good for a while, but then you have to breathe out, you can't do both at the same time. There are benefits to breathing in to breathing out. But you can't just do one, right. And so you can't just be too visionary and emotional, because that ends up being vague. You can't just be too concrete and specific because that ends up being bland. And so the essential intent really the idea there just rebrands straddling that line filling in that gap, like you said, and so I think as leaders in an organization, that the objective there is to seek that balance, always because you're always going to trend one way or another. So if you're getting too bland, you're in the middle of like a big program delivery, that's going that's been going on for nine months or so. Or you're in your third year, that's maybe the time to start injecting some of the more visionary type, language and communication. And then likewise, as you start to set new direction, for an organization getting specific, we're going to build 150, affordable homes, right in this area. That was a good example, getting this many people everyone on the internet. And I think it's you can inject the specificity in alongside the inspirational, aspirational. And so it seems like in an organization, it really falls on the leadership side of the equation to make sure that polarity those that balance is constantly, you know, being sought and found. agree, disagree.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I don't know.

Robert Greiner:

This has to woo for Charles.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, I, to me, I think this is this sounds valuable, just like other things sound valuable. And I guess I'm trying to find why. And maybe you don't maybe you don't think this? Well, it sounds like you do you do think that this is better than other things out there to help people to connect short term objectives with broader vision.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, organizational or leaders like toolkit.

Charles Knight:

I think it's my, the reason why I like this particular tool, is because I find it to be efficient. You find your essential intent. You define your time horizon, whatever it is one or five years. It's outcome driven, not output driven. And it's then very easy to communicate that over and over again, you know,

What is it about the methodology used to arrive at a central intent that makes it so easy to find this thing that is elusive for most organizations, if they don't do essential intent, that's, I think the part That gets me it's like, it's hard to connect short term with long term. We've got it. What is it about the approach? What's the insight here? That the essential intent practitioners of the world have that others don't, that allow them to arrive at this magical zone of inspirational and concrete?

Yeah, I think the other methods, and it's usually not a competition with methods, it's usually people just not doing it. And to me, it's like distraction, and lack of focus. And then those are the same thing. But that's what essential intent really addresses, I think, in a way that, you know, other tools may not be able to address because if you're using your essential intent, as a decision making guide, and you're applying it consistently, it prevents you from chasing things that aren't additive to achieving that essential intent. And I think that's, to me, that's what sets it apart.

Robert Greiner:

That makes sense it is it is a model that allows you to set an end date for something aspirational, which is a feature that's not in a lot of sort of aspirational toolkits. It gives you a permission, or it's baked into the methodology to eliminate cutting out things that are quote unquote, non essential, it leads you to go through the intentional thought process of identifying what's essential to like the exploration step. And then there, it has also focused on execution. So it is almost like essential ism. And maybe this is partially of why you have a problem with the Charles, although I don't think it's a bad thing. It's peels, the goodness from different things, best practices, or whatever you want to call it that other people have done in the past and come and take what's best, throws everything else out and then has you tried to really focus on this is the ideal timeframe, cutting out stuff is very important. And also bringing being practical, but bringing in the aspirational side is it's mandatory, or things will fail. And so it is like an amalgam of some of the other things you've seen, but it does capture. It's also messy, right? Like it captures everything you need into one toolkit. So you can just start there and and just push on essential intent. You don't need anything else maybe.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, it's, I guess, if the essential intent didn't work, and I was gonna try to advise teams on how to solve this problem that essential intent solves, I would tell them, hey, you've got your aspirational vision. Great, you know, what you need to do in the next three months, perfect set some five year goals? Isn't that really it being a little vague about it.

Robert Greiner:

It's a little bit more approachable to there were, you know, Google it, how many iterations of okrs did it take them to actually get it to where it's in the system now how many companies have OKRs are great, that's a big hill to climb, to get to the point where you're doing them at scale consistently in a way that makes sense and furthers your goals. Essential intent, almost let you go in as you are at a point in time, and really define what's important and align everyone in the same direction, you would have to, you need other things besides essential intent, Igor, or maybe I'm wrong, but or you'd have to do the essential intent exercise on some cadence every year, every two years, whatever to make sure that everyone's re aligns. Because as soon as you finish, this thing, like becomes stale. As soon as you're done, everyone starts to drift again. And so I think this is a, almost a methodology. I can't even think of the right word a toolset, to align people in a point in time, across aspirational, inspirational type stuff, and also be practical,

Igor Geyfman:

in the essential intent. There's a methodology that's associated with it. And so to me, I don't see it as competing with, hey, come up with your five year goal. But that directions can be pretty vague. And when the team then go and says, Okay, our boss told us to create a five year goal. And they all get into the room to talk about it. Now there, if there's no structure for how to create that goal, in a way that's, you know, meaningful and measurable and inspirational and concrete and all these other sort of factors, then you might come out with a five year goal that isn't as effective as something that you come up with an essential intent mindset.

Charles Knight:

And I can see that and that's where it's we don't have time. And this is probably not the right medium to go into the details of the methodology itself. There absolutely could be secret sauce in the essential intent methodology that makes it easier to define inspirational and concrete five year goals. I'm, that's plausible to me. And maybe we can, if people want, we can dive deeper into what that methodology is.

I think this points back to just at its core, how difficult it is for groups of humans, even small groups of humans to agree on something that is further out than just a few weeks into the future from right now,

Robert Greiner:

I do agree they're so out of the methodology, and an Igor. I'm really curious to see what you think about this. The essence that first step is what you just said, right? understanding what's essential, but then you prioritize. And then you eliminate, which is so important. And we talked about this in our personal essential intent episode, that's the thing, we just don't think about cutting stuff out that's so important, and then executing what's left, and thinking about how to change the systems and people and process and technology in place to make sure that you can do it effectively. So the what you're talking about is one component. It's the beginning component, one of four of the essentialism process and flow. And I don't think that there's anything maybe magical in essential essential ism for individuals or organizations around setting that goal, except that it asks you to balance, aspiration with concreteness.

Charles Knight:

the most meaningful part to me, and I mentioned this earlier is just people just don't do it. But people just don't do it. And that's what gets organizations into trouble. They have they spend a lot of energy, working on things that don't make a difference.

Do you think? Because that's hard for individuals? We've talked about that? And so do you think the problem is harder for organizations to think about what's essential, prioritize, stop doing things? And focus? Is it one of the same between individuals organizations, it's harder,

it's harder, because if we create an analogy, let's say with a person doing it, this is somebody who's trying to do that in their life, but suffer from multi multiple personality disorders, because there's voices in their head with a lot of times competing thoughts. One person wants to be a business consultant. And then the other person wants to sell seashells on the seashore. And another one would just rather sing opera or something. And so I think it's much harder for organizations because there's so many more competing voices. Because at the end of the day, organizations are made up of individuals. And it's really uncommon for all those individuals to agree all the time. And even reconcile that. I think it's much easier for a human being that doesn't have multiple personality disorder to do that. So I think it's more difficult.

Robert Greiner:

And I would agree, there Igor, you've seen this, you've done these workshops, helped align project teams, product teams, clients, organizations, against an essential intent, there is an appetite, a craving for that level of dialogue and intentionality, and analysis, because everybody feels like physiologically that something's missing. When you point out, it's like, hey, everyone's just going in their own direction, we don't have this guiding intention, what strategy vision, whatever you want to call it, that galvanizes us towards in a common direction. And everyone thinks, Oh, yeah, we need that. Let's go. And then there's, the juices get flowing pretty quickly. There's not a lot of friction there. When everyone's Hey, it's been so long, we really feel that this is missing, it does make it easier, I think,

Igor Geyfman:

yeah, my experience, that's really why I implemented this technique, and sometimes have another tool that I use called the five bold steps vision tool. And, and you can really partner with the essential intent workshop and then use them together. And then use something like the OKR tool, to break down goals in a much more granular level. And so not all organizations are ready to take on like the full, the big enchilada of those, all those three things working together. And so depending on the most immediate perceived pain, you know, is usually what I look at to start a company with, sometimes a client needs to get into okrs. First, sometimes they need to do the vision workshop, and sometimes they need to essential intent.

Robert Greiner:

So

this is a tool in the leaders toolbox in the organization's toolbox. And so when do we wield this tool? Like when in your experience, when do we talk about essential ism in an organization?

Charles Knight:

So the times where where I've chosen to wield this tool is when and usually the way that we engage with our clients is we have series of interviews with different stakeholders and people that are part of the organization and the biggest symptom that tells me that essential intent might be the right tool is when I see folks either being paralyzed during the decision making process, or when I see decisions coming from different parts of the organizations or sometimes even within the same team, that seem to be at odds with one another, and cancel each other out.

Robert Greiner:

Or when you can't get people together maybe to do the workshop to begin with, because they're in meetings for 12 hours a day. And you're getting replies to your emails at two in the morning. Because everyone's just so busy running around putting out fires. Yeah.

Charles Knight:

Sometimes that's that's also a symptom. Sure, Charles, I appreciate your skepticism. I hope you know that.

Robert Greiner:

I don't think he likes it. I don't think Charles is going to be running any essential ism workshops anytime soon.

Charles Knight:

That's okay. Not everybody needs every tool in their toolbox.

I'm trying to be essential about the tools that I add to my toolbox.

That's true. You open up your toolbox, and you have too many tools in there. You don't know which one, you should pull out. What's the opposite problem of when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The other problem is when you have a million tools in your toolbox, you don't know which one well out

for that. I mean, all kidding aside, though, like I, I think I'm going to go back to what I said before, it is hard to get people to consistently come together align on something that requires more than a couple of weeks to do. It is just hard to direct groups of human beings, period. And we need innovation in terms of how we do that. And, sure there's decades of research around vision, strategy, goals, tactics, objectives, metrics. Now, there's okrs and essential intent. That's all good. That's all good. From my perspective, we need that I'm not educated enough on essential intent at an organizational level to really understand how I would wield it. And I think that's where my skepticism comes into play. Doesn't mean it's good. It's not good. But I'm sure it's fantastic. And the fact that you've used it, and have gotten results, and you wanted to bring this to our listeners attention is enough for me to say it gets my vote of confidence. But I certainly don't feel confident that I would be able to execute one. Yeah. But it doesn't mean it's not a good tool. And I liked your question, Robert, around. Okay, when would we actually wield this tool? I think that's probably that's like an important question that as an as a leader, we need to be asking ourselves all the time to make sure that we select the right one. And we have to be open to the fact that maybe we don't have the tool that we need. And maybe I need essential intent. And I don't have it, and I should invest some time to learn it. And that's my takeaway. We can talk about it later offline about what you've actually done in those workshops, because I'm just dying to know like, how did you guide these people in this chaos, to get them to arrive at something that is materially better? Well, that's Yeah. Why wouldn't I want to learn a technique that can do that? So I'm excited to learn? Don't take my skepticism as soon as that

Robert Greiner:

In other words does not get off my lawn Igor.

Charles Knight:

and I'm going to tell you that the bar for success is extraordinarily low, Charles, because I'm going to repeat this for the fourth time that what we're competing with is doing nothing.

Yeah, I don't think I understood what you meant the first three times you said it, but now I actually do. And I think I understand. So like, I'm with him. I'm with him. Maybe

Robert Greiner:

Alright, so I know we

we have a we have a hard stop here in a few minutes, Igor, bring it home. How can one get started? If you're either an individual contributor on a team, and you see the symptoms, it's probably really obvious, right? Like, I remember, my days as a developer, it's just like that lack of direction, seemed so silly. And then the goals and objectives and the concrete things you have to don't make any sense. So why would I like why am I going to kill myself to try to get this thing done? So if you're an individual contributor, if you're a leader of a team, if you're a product owner, a scrum master and executive like whatever, give us some sort of next steps, or we can experiment with a essentialism without having to master it in order to move our organizations forward?

Charles Knight: t everyone in the internet by:

Robert Greiner:

Igor, I got it. Another example. And this did not, this was like accidental essentialism, where we had a really large product team. And we had like a quality issue, like a lot of defects were piling up faster than we were squashing the bugs. And so that's not a long term way to run a successful software development project. And we were not getting a lot of traction trying to get approval as can we peel another developer off for a sprint to try to tame some of these defects. And so what we said was, we want to, we want zero defects by the end of the quarter, like zero, which in software development, you never have zero defects. If you don't have any in the system, you just haven't found them yet. But that really galvanized everyone. It's like we and we got buy in like executive buy in it's like, oh, yeah, everyone's energized around this quality effort, zero defects. And we got down to 12. Right. So technically failed, but it's better than the hundreds we had. And that really helped everyone focus their energy, the quality ticked up, people were able to build features faster later, because there wasn't so much tarpit around to Meyer you down when you did work. And then when we were done, we moved on. And I think that was like a really interesting, maybe accidental point in time example of essential ism, where it certainly rallied everyone. It was concrete and aspirational at the same time, much shorter timeframe, though.

Charles Knight:

That's right. Impossible is aspirational, isn't it? No, maybe not exactly one of the defects that

the key there is just to have no QA.

Yeah, there you go. But this is what I think is clicked for me. And, Igor, you were talking about the difference between an output and the outcome? I think that for me, I have seen time and time again, people have a really hard time defining their outcomes. They know exactly what they need to do now and maybe even next year, but getting them to articulate what is the outcome of that work is so hard. And I don't exactly know why. To me, maybe it's like, first order thinking second order thinking, like, hey, it's so easy to see the first order effects of what we do, like we produce a Wi Fi access point. And yet, we confuse that with the actual outcome that we want, like the impact and the change that we want to see in the system. And I'll include in the show notes, a colleague of ours shared with me a document from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a guide to actionable measurement, which I think was really impactful for me, and helping to think about how businesses not just nonprofits, because this is targeted at the nonprofit space, can think about measuring, defining and thinking about both outputs and outcomes, because you need both, right, you need both outputs and outcomes in order to have the results that you want. And I think there's a lot that business world can learn from nonprofits, about how do you get really good at identifying the outcomes that you want, and then letting those guide your short, short term actions,

not your right trials, nonprofits are so good at that,

Igor Geyfman:

The Bill and Melinda Gates

Charles Knight:

Foundation, they can say, hey, our essential intent is to wipe malaria off as a disease in Sub Saharan Africa. Right? And that's a very much an essential intent. And you're either doing things towards that outcome or you're not, right. And the outputs might be number of people vaccinated, water treatment, those sorts of things. But at the end of the day, the question is, did you wipe out malaria?

Robert Greiner:

Hopefully, this was helpful to somebody other than Charles,

Charles Knight:

I'm sorry, if I shut down the conversation, we should talk next time

Robert Greiner:

about whether she talked for an hour. Now, you should definitely be skeptical, especially for our next series. So

Charles Knight:

I encourage everyone to put on their skeptical hat because there's a lot of people selling snake oil and you want to make sure that you're critically assessing what's being presented to you. And so Charles, I agree Really appreciate your skepticism and the discussion and dialogue today.

Robert Greiner:

And that this is a tool to use, as it makes sense. And to experiment with and grow with this is not a silver bullet. Yeah. Never say that

Charles Knight:

it's an experiment. And is this gonna, is this gonna work? Or is this not gonna work? I think I'd have to try it with more clients to, to really get a good feel for it. But like I said, the bar for success was being measured against doing nothing. And so I know it helped the clients because it was something where there was nothing before.

And last thing I will say, before you try to do this with your team or your clients, do this for yourself that that should be a prerequisite. I got a non starter dog food this

thing? For sure. That's a great call out Charles. Don't experiment with your vaccine on the vulnerable and the unaware.

Yeah.

Robert Greiner:

Alright, y'all. Thanks for your time today.

Igor Geyfman:

Thanks ya'll.

Robert Greiner:

Thanks, Igor.

Charles Knight:

Bye Bye.

Robert Greiner:

Have a good one. Bye. That's it for today. Thanks for joining. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @wannagrabcoffee or drop us a line at [email protected]

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About the Podcast

Wanna Grab Coffee?
Join us for weekly discussions about careers, leadership, and balancing work and life.
A podcast about all of the topics we discuss during our mid-day coffee breaks. We bring you stories, thoughts, and ideas around life as a professional, leadership concepts, and work/life balance. We view career and leadership development as a practice that spans decades and we are excited to go on this journey with you.