Blog Archives

Desired Outcomes: Procurement Decision Making

As part of a supplier evaluation process, outline and review the implementation plan as a group before selecting a supplier.

Five step model

Summarize strategic and operational objectives

  • Confirm understanding with stakeholders and potential suppliers
  • Validate against Charter

Zero-in on specific and tangible deliverables

  • Simplify/summarize proposal so stakeholders understand exactly what is to be purchased, and relationship to objectives-executive summary format.
  • Clarity on scope, and how/when to address important out-of-scope work.
  • Does the potential supplier/service provider/consultancy understand long-term goals and strategy to leverage tools and processes? For example, that will be sustainable as staff and organizational change occur?
  • Have other related needs been identified to ensure scope boundary clarity, validate ranking, and where/how in future schedule they fit and will be addressed? Full stakeholder agreement in advance for these decisions to avoid a subsequent, “What about….”.
  • Decide what not-to-do and document.

Outcome over time: 90 days and one year milestones

  • High level dashboard to sustain visibility?
  • Develop success story to share
  • Is a PM needed to ensure schedule, resources, and quality goals are met?
  • Measurement or reporting schedule/ cadence

Roles and responsibilities

  • How/who will the organization leverage or utilize the new knowledge, plan, product, service?
  • Who has responsibility to do what when?
  • When will these tasks complete, and how will we agree they are complete? Definitions with metrics.

Identify integration points and priorities

  • Relationship to current process/technology platform
  • Relationship to subsystems or other tools that are currently integrated
  • Relationship to supplier systems and processes? Simplification?

Strategy Backlog Management

How to rapidly gain agreement on a unified strategy in a cross-functional setting where impact, coordination, balance, and efficiencies must be optimized and are critical to manage? With multiple sometimes competing or overlapping initiatives at the functional leadership level, a leadership team must continuously review alignment and make decisions that provide the best overall outcome for the organization, staff, and external stakeholders.

We offer a simple three-stage, potentially one-page, model to facilitate a cross-functional strategy discussion and recommend a systems thinking perspective for designing solutions.

 Strategy Discussion:

  • Identify, confirm, and list pressing near-term strategy issues that must be addressed
  • Seek input from functional departments
  • Synchronize with existing quarterly plan and initiatives
  • Rank, group, and clarify
  • Model mission-level workflow between key departments, and gain agreement on critical success path
  • Identify most important cross-functional points of integration at leadership level
  • Present in context of  two or three year major objectives
  • Time-boxed small group dialog selectively working on those issues with the potential for greatest positive impact 


  • The result of a strategy discussion may be one or more change initiatives
  • These may be simple tasks that can be assigned and completed quickly
  • These may be new or revised processes, communication models, modification of functional tactics, etc.
  • Or more extensive work that requires a project orientation and process.
  • This could provide initial objectives for a more detailed and formal strategic planning process


  • Once a change or project is complete the result of the strategy discussion becomes an operational process or activity.

The process repeats itself as strategy questions are resolved into change and operations, new strategy issues surface, and the backlog is groomed to produce the ideal work sequence. This format presents a common WIP board for management of strategic work to improve integration, alignment, efficiencies, and optimize desired organizational results (metrics, impact, outcomes). Close attention to the design of performance metrics and alignment of metrics will make-or-break the ability of a team to make the best decisions consistently.

Outcome Management and User Story Mapping

Present in the non-profit space, donor pressure to demonstrate effectiveness of program activities has resulted in adoption of a planning and measurement model focused on outcomes over time. A number of naming conventions are in use including Logical Framework Analysis, LogFrame, Outcome Management, Outcome Mapping, and Results Management.

The purpose is to effectively plan activities and measure results that emerge downstream from tasks performed during a project. This model supports a lifecycle horizon beyond a formal project, where by definition there must be a specific beginning and an equally specific end.

  • Be more specific during planning stage on change objectives and strategies
  • Early test of assumptions on change theory and strategy
  • Create evaluation framework
  • Clearly identify boundary partners (direct and indirect stakeholders) that may be object of change initiative
  • Progress markers or milestones describing progress (incremental) leading to ideal outcome

Outcome Management focuses on activities that lead to outcomes that can be measured over time, not just a final milestone or product. Often this concept is applicable to complex change, non-linear or discontinuous initiatives, and organizational, behavioral, or social change.

Reading Jeff Patton’s fine book, User Story Mapping, he provides the vision and methods to tell an entire story, helping stakeholders and developers see and stay connected with the future impact of their individual or group work. His approach facilitates fundamental questions and group dialog such as, “Why are we building this?”

Perhaps his most important strategic contribution is to articulate a sound argument for outcome vs. output, especially output focused simply on simple feature quantity or speed to deliver more features.

  • He defines, “We measure what people actually do differently to reach their goals as a consequence of what you’ve built.”
  • He summarizes, “that positive change later is really why they’d want it.”

The book continues with an excellent perspective on how to think about and critique planning for resource investment: “Minimize output, and maximize outcome and impact”. Certainly applicable in the resource constrained volunteer non-profit field.

These are two complementary models where effective cross-domain leverage of tools and techniques have a strong potential to improve process and results. I recommend adding Jeff’s book to your library.

NFL Change Mangement

“A journey, start work sooner”

NFL players, with  very short careers, start working with Tim Brown (IDEO) to make transition to a new career four years in advance.