Well-formed outcomes – starting with that end point in mind

Photo by Markus Spiske

Well-formed outcomes help people get clear about what it is that they want to achieve. Shaping up future outcomes that are highly defined from the start, is a creative and disciplined way of thinking. One that can have real potency. To be well-formed, the outcome involves thinking through in detail, the elements that are involved. It is about imagining what the outcome would look and feel like to have reached that point in the future. The ingredients of any well formed outcomes are identifiable, specific and compelling.

Franklin Covey’s Habit 2 ‘Begin with the end in mind’, draws on this theme. He reinforces the idea. It sounds easy but in reality it can be challenging. Future outcomes, in this complex world, cannot usually be entirely predicted from the outset. To be successful at achieving well-formed outcomes, you will need to stay open to relevant feedback and some adjustment along the way.

Adding in feedback loops, keeps you psychologically flexible and helps you remain open and grounded in the reality of your experience. There is no magic at play here. Achieving well-formed outcomes usually also involves determination, considerable effort and practical realism. And that’s why it’s also helpful to include milestones on that journey, markers where you can stop and review your progress. You can gather yourself, look back and see how far you’ve come.

The stance of, ‘beginning with the end in mind’ is hugely beneficial. There is a strange paradox involved in the statement. A truth embedded in it. That, when starting out we can be so much more effective when we have clarity about where we want to end up!

More about well formed outcomes

The term well-formed outcome is a concept often used in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. It’s about being able to see it in your mind’s eye – forming the details and shaping up the result. Envisioning it, using all your senses. Well-formed outcomes are sensory based. You anticipate what you will think and feel, using all your senses, describing how you will celebrate when it all comes together. Part of the power of really identifying and visualising what you want or need to achieve, is that it releases energy, new direction and self-motivation.

A vital aspect of the well-formed outcome process is this imaginative element. It is a richly textured kind of visualising. Seeing it and actually feeling the excitement. Imagining yourself achieving your outcome as if it is a full scale, colourful movie – happening in front of your eyes. One in which, you can touch, taste, smell and feel whatever is happening. You experience all that is happening. Fully entering into this visualisation experience works to draw you towards that future reality. Getting inwardly in touch with this energy and inner drive before you start working to achieve your outcome, can give you both a real purpose. It fuels your inner determination to head towards that outcome. Right from the get-go!

Of course, once you have that outcome clearly defined and pictured, how you will get there and what you will need on that journey is vitally important too. All the angles need to be thought through carefully. These will include, for instance, the timings, the financial implications, the people involved and all the other various resources you will need to consider. It is at this early stage that you try not to miss something that will later derail you.

More about well formed outcomes

The first step involves positively stating the desired outcome, which means taking a positive view of what you want by examining potential solutions rather than problems. If you want, for example, to stop feeling scared when you have to make an important presentation, telling yourself not to be nervous isn’t going to help. It’s much more helpful telling yourself you’d like to start enjoying making presentations – can you see how it takes off the pressure? Then developing a positive image in your mind – confidently speaking to your audience. This can make a shift. It is at least a starting point, even if you still feel some anxiety. Stating your desired outcome positively can be a deliberate first step motivator.

The next step is to specifically state your outcome using what, when, where, and how questions. If your desired outcome is a promotion, be very specific about when you want it to happen, exactly what the job will be, where you’ll be based and so on. It’s important to be really specific because you use the information later, to check-in that you have actually achieved the outcome you wanted.

The third step is to pin down any feedback and evidence associated with your ideal outcome. Feedback, at the early stages and along the journey helps you know when you’re on track and also informs you. Perhaps you may need to tweak what your outcome looks like at some point. In the light of new evidence or data, you might indeed need to reshape the outcome. It is not fixed in stone at any stage. This attitude of remaining open to new data, prevents you from becoming less effective or fixed rigidly in your initial outcome concept. It is not failure to adjust it. It may simply be necessary and the natural process of you refining your well-formed outcome.

It is also about knowing what the criteria is that definitely demonstrates that you have finally produced that well-formed outcome. You have reached the end. Evidence can take many forms. What will constitute your evidence? What data will show you this? What will have happened? What might others be saying?

The fourth step involves thinking about the resources you need to achieve the outcome. Is it premises, a room, equipment, tools, maybe even cash? Resources can also mean internal resources of course, attributes like resilience, expertise, experience and determination. In fact intangible and internal resources can often be the most important of all and these really help you stay on your path.

Photo by Mark Duffel

Next you need to think about control. What, exactly, do you control? Does your outcome rely on other people, and if so to what degree? What does the split of responsibilities look like? However are you going to get those key people on-side? How will you communicate what you are wanting to do and influence them?

Here’s where you might also challenge yourself. Double check that how you are wanting to achieve your outcome does fit with the values that you as a person are wanting to express? If there is any doubt, step back and think through how you can achieve the outcome you want but perhaps find a different way to get there. Perhaps there is a better way.

The next step is for you should make an ecology check, examining the wider consequences of the outcome. Will it have a negative impact on somebody, or on the environment you operate in? Could it have a negative impact on you, yourself? You don’t want to achieve an outcome, then discover it’s the last thing you want after all. This is your final sanity-check, your last chance to see if your outcome is as desirable as you think.

Done? Finally, now you’re ready to create a plan. A plan that will both maintain your focus and keep you motivated. You can produce your SMART goals (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related) and those milestones along the way that signify that you are making genuine progress.

The most important things of all

Using your imagination to visualise the future is one of the most powerful tools we all possess. It’s about honing our ability to envision in our minds the things we can’t see – the possibilities. And it’s inspired by the principle that everything is created twice, once in the mind and a second time in the real, physical world.

Because physical creation always follows the mental creation, it makes sense to consciously visualise who you are and what you want. This in turn will impact other people and circumstances that shape you and your life. Honouring your own uniqueness and being clear about your personal values and your ethics is key to real success. Without taking these aspects into consideration and being grounded in them, your outcomes may not be quite as well-formed as they need to be. At the end they might not bring you the real meaning and fulfilment that you were hoping to gain. It is always worth remembering that creating
well-formed outcomes is not only about skilled and disciplined outcome thinking. It is first and foremost about connecting with yourself and what is truly important to you.

Would you like to achieve well-formed outcomes?

We know just how powerful this approach can be. If you’d like to develop it as part of you professional repertoire, we’ll be pleased to talk with you. Contact us