Imagine the scene: You’re waiting at a coach-station, about to embark on a long (and expensive) trip. It’s 4am in the morning, it’s dark and raining so the visibility is poor—meaning you can’t read any of the timetables or travel information. You’re expecting a coach will arrive soon. And, after a short wait, it does.
However, the front of the coach has a route number but no destination name, so you aren’t sure whether the coach is heading in the right direction. You scan the coach station and see a variety of other people and members of staff mulling around. What would you do?
If you are like many people, I suspect you would ask a member of staff, a fellow passenger or the driver to confirm which destination this coach was headed towards. You might also ask for information about the route it is taking, the cost, and when it is due to arrive. Yet, whilst cost and time will be important to you – getting to the right destination is the key. A cheap, quick coach ride in the opposite direction will likely be a bad thing—you’d end up further from where you want to be!
Agreeing the destination is crucial
This focus on destination is important on business initiatives and projects too. When initiating a project or initiative, an organisation wants to get somewhere; there is a desired outcome that our stakeholders are seeking. Yet often, when time is short (as is so often the case), there is a temptation to skip over (or race through) discussions which refine the outcome. Indeed, as BAs and change practitioners we may find our stakeholders press for estimates, requirements and solutions first.
Yet a trap awaits organisations and teams that do not spend time concisely and precisely agreeing the outcomes that they are seeking. So often there can be tacit agreement on project outcomes—on the surface it appears that everyone agrees. Yet, when we get into the detail of the project we discover very different perspectives on what should be delivered. This difference may have bubbled beneath the surface for weeks or months, and by this point may be costly to resolve. If it had been resolved up front it would have saved time and effort.
Take this theoretical example. Imagine two senior stakeholders on a project in an insurance company: