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Focus on Outcomes and Maximize Your Time, Talent Resources

by Jennifer Robison

Story Highlights

  • Talent selection, engaging managers and strengths application are vital
  • Instead of inviting chaos, outcome-based approaches promote efficiency
  • Shifting to a culture like this requires intention and persistence

Time and talent are precious resources. Leaders who adopt an outcome-based approach ensure that neither of these is wasted.

This approach focuses people and teams on a concrete result, not the process required to achieve it. Leaders define outcomes and, along with managers, set parameters and guidelines.

Employees, then, have a high degree of autonomy to use their own unique talents to reach goals their own way.

But for outcome-based approaches to work, a specific type of culture is required, one supported by talent selection, management that engages employees and the smart application of employees' talents to their roles.

There's a lot to this paradigm, and it's not an easy lift. The payoff in environments like these is that executives get more time to concentrate their talents on setting and articulating vision, direction and goals, while trusting that the work will get done well and efficiently.

To many executives, that's a fair bargain.

Helping managers develop an outcome-based mindset offers an array of other benefits, too.

For one, outcome-based management aligns with knowledge-economy jobs that rely on talent and personal judgment. That's a huge plus for talent recruitment, especially of millennials who prefer development over supervision in a job role.

And while command-and-control management forces managers to police workers, which can make employees resistant or dependent, outcome-based management allows managers to spend more time coaching. That improves engagement, increases innovation, and incentivizes performance, individual achievement and the productive application of strengths.

Obviously, an outcome-based approach democratizes control, accountability, freedom and responsibility. Some leaders may see that as an invitation to chaos and mission failure. Others, including many of the best managers Gallup has ever studied, use outcome-based management whether they call it that or not -- and whether their bosses know it or not.

From this research, we know managers sometimes use an outcome-based approach with a particular team or person. In other cases, it's an organizational expectation.

Take Southwest Airlines, for instance. Southwest's leadership believes that passengers should have a good time on a Southwest flight, which is why flight attendants are famous for being fun. But management doesn't provide a list of required jokes and games -- they let employees make flights enjoyable in the way that feels right to them. Fun is the required outcome, but the process is up to the individual.

Southwest's staff has a lot of freedom to act, which may strike some as unmanaged and unmanageable. But companies that fully understand and effectively implement outcome-based management on a broad scale tend to create a supportive ethos around it.

In fact, the system is hard to sustain without that supportive ethos, at least on a macro level. Leaders who want to focus their organization on outcomes more than processes intentionally develop that philosophy, which is perhaps more accurately called an outcome-based culture (OBC).

An OBC is not a formal business structure. You can't major in OBC in business school, and there's no ISO certification. An OBC is an approach to thinking, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, strategizing, managing, prioritizing and leading that requires executives to be careful -- and scrupulous -- about things they may have given little thought to before.

But an OBC can also be exceptionally efficient, innovative and engaging -- and get the most out of a company's precious time and talent resources. Leaders should know, however, that moving from a command-and-control culture to an OBC requires intention and persistence.

The next three articles in this series explain how to help individual contributors make that shift, what managers should do and the metrics leadership needs to determine success.

Learn more about how Gallup can help your organization shift to a culture of performance development:

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