Measurable Outcomes: Making Meetings Into Productivity Engines

Feb 9, 2017     By Michael Grace

“My meeting was a success: Everyone who was invited attended!”

Oh, my apologies, we are actually in 2017, not 2007?

There was a time not too far in the distant past when one seldom referred to measurable outcomes & meetings in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence or context.

The same could be said for a series of commercial processes and requirements in business today. To clarify that context, let’s take a typical example of where many sales and bid management teams have been recently mildy surprised through to perplexed by this requirement:

“A huge RFP comes across your desk. Your organization has the perfect program for the RFP. Funding is but one deadline away! You begin working on the narrative. All goes well – you’ve written a tight Project Description, your treasurer has created a strong Project Budget, the Needs Statement is compelling – until you reach the Measurable Outcomes section.”

The what?

Is understanding the effectiveness of what we do a waste of time?

Not so long ago I spent several years working with an exciting, emerging vendor on the productisation strategies of their very cool security technologies, re-signing a $Multi-million key partner/customer & driving their global expansion execution.

Developing & executing on strategies for market disruptive technologies productisation and sales growth can generate excitement & passion. There is a whole global market out there to engage & conquer.

The broader goals & objectives are not complicated in such scenarios, and our fast paced modern world of technology life-cycles dictates that we understand these quickly & clearly and then execute with a healthy sense of urgency.

At the same time, everyone involved in the event chain from planning thru to the end-user transferring payment for the functioning product they have deployed, needs to know & understand their tasks, have a task and actioning prioritisation management method. People throughout the company should clearly understand why their tasks & projects are critical to the overall fulfilment of the company’s ultimate goals & objectives, why what they achieve or fail to deliver can be the difference between success and failure of so much work & passionate effort by everyone in the team, in fact the whole company.

Clearly, they should be assessing the outcomes of their own work and the targeting of their focus & efforts, in this context.

And as the sage wisdom has decreed for centuries: “Context is King!”

If the software development folks in the USA & Eastern Europe are working to different project perceptions, timelines, agendas & goals themselves, and are not aware of the critical requirements intel coming back from the teams engaging with the prospects & customers, and not measuring their outcomes in that context, then eventually we end up delivering the world’s best 100% Pure Beef First Class Hamburgers to the high spend Vegan & Vegetarian Society of London Annual Conference

Man those hamburgers were great! The quality! The freshness of the product! The aroma of sizzling 100% pure grain fed beef! You can proudly present those burgers to anyone

Except perhaps the Vegan & Vegetarian Society of London Annual Conference

So how is this directly relevant to the title of today’s discussion piece on

Measurable Outcomes?

First of all we should all be clear, in the context of the real life example of a global telecommunications industry opportunity that our company was engaged on, which I will detail for you below, that all tasks and agendas within the organization need to be aligned with achieving the company’s strategic goals and outcomes.

Let’s grab that crucial point and repeat it for absolute clarity:

“All tasks and agendas within the organization need to be aligned with achieving the company’s strategic goals and outcomes.”

Now that might sound logical, a “no brainer”, a classical “We should all be reading off the same plan” scenario. Amazingly, it often simply does not happen.

One crucial reason for this is most often a lack of company-wide visibility into what these goals & objectives are, as well as a lack of clear definition of what the outcomes of each teams work & projects should be, and what these outcomes will be measured against, what the “measured” criteria will be.

How can individuals and teams of an organization align themselves with the company goals and objectives, when they or their managers do not have a real time access to running updates that either inform them of what they need to know & do, or are accessible so that team leaders and managers can collaborate with the relevant staff and team stakeholders, assess updates, then changes and adjust their tasks and measurables criteria as required?

So what are these core processes in the vast majority of organizations, the driving essence that keeps the cogs of industry, commerce, innovation & business turning, producing momentum?

It is not complicated: It is the availability and application of intelligence. Basically the three fundamental states of intelligence (aka Information in the context & form we need) :

  • The intelligence we produce
  • The intelligence we service
  • The intelligence we pass on

Apart from our own personal production of intelligence, how do we as an organization leverage off this to the benefit of all involved and to support the achievement of the mutual goals & objectives? Again there are three basic modern day modes:

  • Humans do like to interact, exchange and refine intelligence in various forms of meetings & decision making support platforms
  • We provide information & intelligence to various forms of repositories & collaboration platforms, using a range of modern communications modes
  • We access & source information & intelligence forms various forms of repositories & collaboration platforms using modern communications modes

OK, so how does or should that work in a practical, everyday working context?

Most of would want or expect the following from a Meeting & Collaboration application or solution today:

  • Immediately receive meeting notes via email and SMS
  • Receive real-time updates sent to our designated applications
  • Automatically or manually trigger or generate To Do Lists, Reminders and Outcomes
  • Have a centralised interface to collaborate, correct and update meetings minutes
  • Be enabled to track team member participation and statistics from any location
  • Role based admin or user access portal to all of the above

As seasoned professionals know, all projects/programs should have Goals and Objectives that are subsequently translated into a set of Measurable Outcomes. These outcomes can then be monitored using quantitative (data, numbers, measurements, statistics) or qualitative (characteristics, senses, intangibles, subjective) approaches – or both. Additionally, they should also be used to track the project’s progress throughout the project period, guide any necessary changes, and evaluate its ultimate success at the end of the projects timeframes.

The more dynamic, timely and accurate the availability of new updates, project status, developing factors and customer related intel is, the better placed everyone in the company will be to adjust the criteria for the measurable outcomes of their work, their team and the streamlining of what they achieve into the overall goals and objectives of the company.

Let’s repeat that crucial aspect:

“The more dynamic, timely and accurate the availability of new updates, project status, developing factors and customer related intel is, the better placed everyone in the company will be to adjust the criteria for the measurable outcomes of their work, their team and the streamlining of what they achieve into the overall goals and objectives of the company.”

So then, what does that mean? What does that require?

To achieve optimal productivity and results across an organization, the fundamental requirement is that each person and team has efficient or automated access to, or receives the most current version of data, decisions, developments, collaboration & meeting session updates/invites, reports, meeting summaries, agendas, general updates, instructions, strategy guidance, intel & developments that are relevant or critical to their assessments, decisions, tasks, planning, execution and outcomes delivery.

Inversely they must also have efficient, streamlined, selectively automated processes, systems and tools that allow them to collaborate, plan, invite, distribute, update & share whatever it is that others within the organization may also require or benefit from.

And all of this, without spending half your working life entering data into various user interfaces of various apps, connecting to CRMs, databases, mail, fax and memo apps etc, and seeking to ensure that everyone knows that the next 6 meetings are scheduled, including where, when, why and who else will be there and what device and meeting, collaboration or comms apps we will need

And across all of that, we want a visible, structured and company strategy aligned measuring of the outcomes of all these processes, projects, workgroups, tasks, teams, meetings, planning, customer engagement, sales & marketing effort effectiveness, support and whether enough cash is in the company accounts to pay all our staff and creditors on the 30th of each month

Measurable Outcomes across the organization are the key. Reliable, context & relevance rich Measurable Outcomes. Streamlined at every level of the business.

And as meetings in their various forms and formats remain the lifeblood of business dynamics and decision making, we need to maximise the value and outcomes of meetings.

Far beyond the trusty and often time-consuming CRM, more nuanced and intel rich than sales pipeline and marketing program reporting, more inclusive and company strategy embracing than meetings or boardroom planning & management platforms.

More connected, compatible, informative & creative than Outlook (or similar platform) with a whole family of plugins.

Beyond that it is not complicated. Just go right to the front of the queue, where the fresh young staff member is wearing the T-Shirt with “SUCCESSFUL OUTCOMES” printed front and back in large letters, and start assessing the step by step requirements backwards from there. You will soon be able to define or redefine what your organization understands by “Measurable”

To conclude for today, let’s circle back to the global telecommunications industry opportunity example that our company was engaged on, which I had referred to earlier in this piece:

They sought a centrally provisioned and supported, managed endpoint device security platform (PC/laptops/tablets/mobile devices & smartphones etc), which they could integrate into their global network of Managed Security Services Centres. They serviced business and enterprises from medium to massive, governments, large education networks, military networks and also a range of telecommunications services providers for their consumer customer’s endpoint security.

Massive market. Massive opportunity.

They liked our presentation and platform demonstration, and promptly requested a PoC Eval (Proof of Concept Evaluation) of our platform within 6 weeks.

Fabulous. No brainer? Priority opportunity. Get the company and all teams aligned and focused!

However (here it comes) in the process between our executive meetings between Europe, the USA & Australia, with furious agreement being achieved on what had to immediately happen, and the folks in our Eastern European based product & code development, the “Must Happen” transitioned to, was understood as “We really want to get this done”. Their questions on how great a priority it really was, were answered by intermediate management and the originating, prospect facing team were not consulted.

The outcome was predictable. The business team was expecting a PoC platform, the development team was diligently working away at their previous priorities and had zero visibility into the changing priority goalposts.

What was being agreed upon in the business meetings, was neither visible to nor understood by the development team management. No context to the PoC requests, they considered it secondary.

Our delay allowed other projects to be scheduled for PoC and we lost our momentum. The PoC never happened.

Thus, all I can say is ensure that you make meetings matter. Leave nothing in this easily solvable and critical requirement to chance. We work in an Age of Automation, automate the distribution and collaboration processes of your meetings and following consultations.

At every level, from any location, from any device, to every device.

Opinion / Meeting