Why we need to clarify the ideal and acceptable outcomes

If you want to deliver value faster, you need to know more than the problem you’re trying to solve.

You also need to know what success looks like.

Start by asking people to define and explain the ideal outcome. The ideal outcome is without restriction, including technical and budget limitations.

Make it a conversation.

Don’t worry about what is possible while focusing on what the ideal solution looks and feels like. Explore why this solution matters and the difference it makes.

By removing the constraints of time, technology, and budget, we sometimes get a more clear picture of what we’re trying to do… which often reveals different (and sometimes better) pathways to get there.

Then get practical and ask people to define and explain the acceptable outcome.

This is often harder to pin down. Seems to be the limitation of our understanding of the costs and consequences of the problem. If needed, focus on exploring the stakes in more detail.

Asking about the acceptable outcome isn’t an effort to set a low bar. We’ve all come across the deals where the price/time/effort magically matches whatever we have. Or the salesperson who’s deal is precisely our budget. Set that aside for now.

Clarifying the ideal and acceptable outcomes sets the parameters for success.

While shooting for the upper bound of the ideal, we can focus on meeting or exceeding the acceptable outcome.

Perhaps as important, it helps steer us away from “all-or-nothing” thinking (and acting). This happens when we interpret what the executive asks for as the “only thing” — creating problems for us.

Use the ideal and acceptable outcomes to define the approach in a way that allows us to deliver value faster.

Finishing work that delivers value is better than wasting time and money on an impossible, if ideal, outcome.

The more we do this, the better we get at matching time and effort to outcome and expected value.

Then we use the extra time and energy to solve more of the right problems, delivering even more value.

About the Author Michael Santarcangelo

The founder of Security Catalyst, Michael develops exceptional leaders and powerful communicators with the security mindset for success.

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