What if an organization forges ahead with 'what' to measure without spending enough analytical time and energy on 'why' they are measuring in the first place? Mapping for outcomes and cross-functional areas helps you understand 'why,' which you can use as a base to explore the specifics of 'what' to measure."
Mapping for outcomes and cross-functional areas combined
How to Map for Outcomes and How to Map for Cross-Functional Areas can be combined to become a 2-part mind map. Keep in mind, the two don’t necessarily need to be used together to be useful. You can certainly find benefits from applying either mapping for outcomes or mapping for cross-functional areas. It all depends on the type of project that you have and what types of silos are the most problematic for your strategy, tactics, and operations.
Creating a 2-part mind map implies that your organization wants to work on both the department or division level for the connections between them, and that it also wants to connect its work more concretely to system-wide contributions through outcomes. I’ll cover a few more concepts below to connect some remaining dots, and then I’ll explain how to shift from a 2-part mind map to a 3-level approach.
In the “how is it useful” section of Getting Started with 360 Degree Planning, a number of potential applications were mentioned. “Executives and managers often work on strategic plans to set the tone, vision, and priorities of the agency. They may also track their performance and progress according to performance measurement systems for monitoring and evaluation purposes. They may be considering reorganization, but are unsure where to begin or what logic a new organizational pattern should follow. This series can help with all of that and more.” The word "measurement" came up, as it often does when talking about urban planning and management. We all know the phrases “what gets measured matters” and “what gets measured gets managed.” What if an organization forges ahead with “what” to measure without spending enough analytical time and energy on “why” they are measuring in the first place? Mapping for outcomes and cross-functional areas will help you understand “why”, which you can use as a base to explore the specifics of "what" to measure.
Origin of "outcomes"
Sustainable development is most commonly defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This definition is taken from Our Common Future, also known as the Bruntland Report, published in 1987. As the International Institute for Sustainable Development explains, this document provides the most common definition and overarching concept for sustainable development that is still in use today. Since I am a fan of all things graphic, I’ll share below an excellent graphic that gets the point across quickly and shows the points of intersection clearly. Sustainability is broken into three primary areas, environmental, social, and economic. At the intersections are socio-environmental, eco-economy, and socio-economic areas. Of course, the center is where all the concepts come together. Though there are slight variations, this is the most widely applied sustainable development concept in use in the international urban planning and management field today.
The use of “outcomes” is an expression of sustainable development concepts. I have four that I commonly reference - economic development, equity and social progress, health and safety, and environment. This is essentially a translation of the primary 3 with an extra focus on health and safety, which is built into each one to a certain extent. I choose to bring it into its own area for emphasis. Each professional may focus on different areas, depending on their organization, program, and project needs.
There is a concept that is also commonly applied, which runs in parallel to sustainable development – the “triple bottom line.” This concept emerged in the business field, and John Elkington claims to have coined it in 1994. It seems to be a business-friendly translation of sustainable development shared above. It was essentially a call for businesses to not think and act only in economic or financial terms, but to consider the broader societal impacts of their work. As the Economist put it, “It consists of three Ps: profit, people and planet.” I find it immensely intriguing when neighboring concepts show up in different fields; it shows us how even in a common language, English in this case, there is a need for technical translation between fields of work and study. If anything, it is proof of how helpful the concept is for describing the need for a holistic approach, whether our work is on cities or in business.
Anticipated vs. proven results
There are anticipated results (AR), those we aim to achieve, and proven results (PR), those shown to have been reached. The articles in this series focus on AR, because we are establishing these targets through the process. AR vs. PR separates the target setting from the achievement. The important thing to keep in mind about target setting through anticipated results is that you are starting with the end in mind first, so that you can build towards it.
Some connections have been identified as “needs” (N). These are gaps in potential ARs. Each N should be reviewed and prioritized to judge if the need should be addressed, which means more deeply understood and eventually converted to one or more related ARs. On the other hand, if it is considered a low priority, it may need to be abandoned. In addition, there are questions (Q). These pertain to ARs that are nearly there, but are unresolved or have a significant caveat. Before fully accepting an AR with a question, the answer should be obtained.
Results through 3-level approach
Consider a 3-level approach to establishing holistic anticipated results. Level 1 is functional, pertaining to delivery targets core to the mission, such as "timely, efficient, and reliable trash and recycling collection." Level 2 is cross-functional, pertaining to the ARs identified such as “housing development with balanced transportation access.” Level 3 is outcome-based pertaining to the ARs identified such as “exercise during transportation.” With these 3 levels, you are going from the smallest unit to a cross-unit analysis to, finally, a higher level, bird’s eye view of their reach into quality of life issues. By taking all the ARs across all 3 levels, you’ll have a clear picture of the targets you want to achieve. Of course, they are not all equal, and a prioritization exercise could help. One of the exciting steps involved with the 3-level approach is that you can get into spreadsheets. For some, spending time in the systems thinking and mind mapping space can be exhausting, and they feel more comfortable using spreadsheets. Though this process, you can see that systems and linear thinking patterns are not at odds with one another; they are complementary.
Understanding your organization’s impact and collective impact
The impact your organization makes is the combination of proven results across the three levels – functional, cross-functional, and outcome-based. Each level is important in its own right, but it is the combination of all three that holds real power for exponential impact. Once you have the 3-layers that are internal to the organization, you can then begin to try and see your organization within the larger system, including its relationships with other organizations. This level is where collective impact is applicable. Impact works best when it is understood in combination with the efforts of others. The collective impact model is an excellent way to think of how all this work combines to meet needs spanning any single organization, which the majority of urban issues do. While you may be able to reach a target, or a PR, you may find that an outside force dampens its effect, or that it could be strengthened when taken into account with the actions of other organizations.
Check out How Operational Level Staff Can Get Involved to complete this educational article series.