This past Halloween, my family and I escaped the gray of Michigan for a week of fun at Disney World and Universal Studios.  Months earlier, we’d made a unanimous family decision at the kitchen table with a map of the U.S. spread out. While the idea of visiting the Florida theme parks with my wife and three daughters seemed like a “can’t miss” positive result. I realized that if I was going to return to Michigan in one piece, I needed to satisfy a set of minimum requirements which existed just under the surface.  There were real boxes that would need checking in order to declare the trip a victory. 

The non-negotiables to consider this trip successful included, my 14-year old requiring a wand from Ollivanders Wand Shop at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™.  The 11-year old begging for time at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; but settling for SeaWorld.  The 7-year old wasn’t coming home until she met and received autographs from 90% of the princesses spanning 60 years of Disney titles.  My wife added her two cents by suggesting (ahem, demanding), that we spend time with her cousins who lived near Orlando. 

My own requirements were minimal.  I wanted to go on a few thrill rides, enjoy myself at Epcot, and if things really went my way – there’d be minimal child squabbling – if you’ve taken a family Disney trip, you understand this qualifier.  Most importantly, accomplishing any one task could not be at the expense of any other.  Suddenly, this relaxing week of fun had a number of key performance indicators which would determine the effectiveness of the effort.  Suddenly the idea of a simple week in Florida, wasn’t so simple after all.

Puzzle.jpgAnd so it is, when I speak with organizations requiring a workforce solution with a specific business outcome, I invariably find boxes which require checking under the surface.  Programs designed to save money, as an example, might be supported by procurement departments without regard to their effect on the quality metrics required by the business.  Talent acquisition departments might push for scalability or access to timely talent, without sensitivity to the impact on program compliance – or worse yet – other strategic initiatives like Safety or Diversity.  It requires us, as trusted advisors, to ask these questions:  Is everyone at the table who needs (or would want) to be?  Does everyone agree with the solution, and its potential for secondary impact?  How can we help communicate value to all those touched by the outcome?  What boxes need to be checked?

Stephen R. Covey’s fifth habit suggests that we “First Understand. Then be understood.”  This habit holds particularly true when it comes to designing workforce solutions achieving great results for organizations with varied stakeholders.  When organizations first seek to understand the total impact to the wider audience concerned, they put themselves in a significantly stronger position to agree on the boxes needing to be checked to produce a great outcome.  Your workforce solution partner can be a significant asset in helping build that value proposition internally.  Posing questions like:

  • What does a great outcome look like, and how do we measure it?
  • What secondary impacts are we willing to tolerate in order to obtain the outcome?
  • Have we ensured all departments impacted by the solution have had a chance to express their concerns?
  • Has a steering committee been established, charged with ensuring effective communication?

We’ve learned, both personally and professionally, that having a clear positive result in mind is not enough.  Understanding the undercurrent of any solution, and how it impacts those with passions and responsibilities of their own, may be the key to designing and executing a great result.   At a minimum, it will steer you clear of disappointed children, and an unenthusiastic wife.

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