Results First Approach

One must never speak of feeling to the actor. Search for the life of the part in plans of action, not feelings. Find the action and the cliché will disappear. If you act and believe, you will begin to feel

More on results as a way of thinking, feeling, and acting

Both nonprofits and their investors tend to think of outcomes as one “piece” of what they discuss, analyze and produce. In strategic planning, for example, outcomes are one component of the plan—along with assessment of strengths and weaknesses, mission and vision, finance, and programs. The glue that binds is….the binder. This approach is also reflected in scoring systems for proposals, where the needs statement and organizational capability are often given as many if not more points than are results. 

Outcomes are especially easy to segment when they fall within the category of Evaluation, which is typically outsourced to people not doing the programs. It is separable as a piece rather than imbedded within a program as a way to track to success.

When results are kept first in mind, people charged with achieving them really do change their behavior. They think about the solution not the problem. They feel the heat and hope of 10 kids learning to read or 20 stopping smoking. And they act out of this thinking and feeling to do and only do those things on the critical path to achievement.

One way to create results is to combine thinking and doing.  Rather than the adage “first we plan and then we act” try acting while you plan to test critical assumptions and build energy by getting underway.  Less considered is the relationship of emotion and action. Constantine Stanislavsky observed:

One must never speak of feeling to the actor. Search for the life of the part in plans of action, not feelings. Find the action and the cliché will disappear. If you act and believe, you will begin to feel.

We feel as well as think toward results because we take action to achieve them. That action is intentional and reasoned, giving us the roadmap for spending our time in ways that most contribute to the success we have clearly envisioned. Even with serendipity, innovation, and whimsy, as Pasteur noted, chance favors the prepared mind.

More on results being about what comes out rather than what goes in.

Missions and beliefs….strategic plans… … job descriptions…data base. These are among the items included in that stolid list of nonprofit practices. I discovered with colleagues at TRI after working with over 300 individual nonprofits that this list is hallowed by tradition far more than by effectiveness. Why? It speaks to what goes in rather than what comes out. For example:

  • I rarely meet a nonprofit with bad values or ones bereft of a wordsmithed mission statement. But I sure see many who do not fully understand, build and hire to the core know how they must have to fulfill that mission and put the beliefs into practice.  Core know- how answers two questions: 1) What business are we in? and 2) What do we know how to do especially well?
  • Strategic plans are documents. They are stuffed with goals and aspirations and with work plans but lack that middle connector that makes all behavior intentional to achieving defined success. Let’s get from plans to strategic maps that literally show present location, destination, routes, and both obstacles and opportunities.  Maps have far more visual explanation than do plans and prompt improvement not rearrangement of words on screen or paper.
  • Job descriptions speak to what goes in… will supervise x people and be responsible for y functions. Few employees report any excitement with this summary of what they do and even who they are at work. How much more powerful is a result description which tells everyone what they have to achieve in the next six months to be highly successful. Job descriptions separate people—this is your job and this is mine. Result descriptions convene people in that you most typically cannot achieve great results without collaboration.
  • Data bases are seen as a technology issues—we need the right software to fulfill funder requirements, insure privacy, and track the flow of people through our programs to verification of outcomes. But we find that when groups get the data bases they have coveted, it may make no difference in how much they achieve for the people they serve.  That requires data use.  People need readiness and capability to use information to improve performance not just report it to funders and stakeholders.

In these and many other areas, I approach outcome guiding by always moving from what goes in to what comes out.

More on Energy as the scarcest resource

Energy is a huge predictor of both organizational and personal achievement. It is the lifeblood of focus, drive, passion, and tenacity.  Regretfully, many of the practices used in organizations (including job descriptions, budgeting, and strategic planning) seem to take out more energy than they put in.  How sad!

To build energy in yourself and your organization you first have to see what is now happening. What happens between start and end of work to charge or drain the batteries? I have developed a tool called an energy audit and you can contact me for more information and possible us.  It let’s organizations or units within them take a look at their sources, distribution, and applications of human energy—in both positive and negative forms. It’s a bit like a house energy audit that looks for heating and cooling is generated and distributed and at energy leaks in and out.

Unlike many conditions (including empowerment and self-esteem) people seem reasonably clear and consistent on understanding their energy level and when it goes up and down. Many can tell you, for example, whether they leave a meeting, a Facebook session, or a one-on-one discussion with their boss with more or less bounce in their stride.

We also know a lot about how to increase energy. One great generic strategy is to compress time.  Virtually no one is more excited at the fifth meeting of strategic planning than the first. And almost everyone at the end of an hour looks at their watch to see how much longer this gathering will continue.   We build energy by doing things in shorter order. And far more often than not, quality actually increases when we reduce cycle time of most activities. More on energy.


“As a member of the 2020 Results Leadership Program for the county, I had a project whose result is to reduce the review time of Building and Development Applications by 50%. To ensure that the result is achieved the BADS Go First Team was established. This team consists of all “Early Adopters” with expertise in their position. This team will assist BADS Business Services and the software vendor for configurations and implementation.

Project Kick was held on 02/24/2020 and BADS Go First Team met with the vendor to review the project requirements. The positive outcome of this meeting resulted in an email response from ePermit Hub’s Drew Arnold, Co-Founder, “I spoke to Seth today and he mentioned he was very excited about how the project kickoff went earlier this week”. This level of excitement was visible and passed on!  

Results First concept has been an amazing tool that I have placed in my professional toolbox. I use it every day as I enter meetings or start outlining a new project. 

UPDATE: The BADS Go First Team continues to thrive and excel my expectations with out ePermit Hub Project. The positive energy they provide is the fuel that keeps this project moving forward. These persons chosen for their readiness to “go first” with a new project continue to provide valuable insights. We all share the determination to achieve our result, which so benefits reviewers and customers.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​”

​​​​​​​ Lacy Pritchard, Manatee County Government


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