Working hard doesn’t always mean you will get the results you hope for or achieve your goals. So the logical step would be to change what you’re doing right? Although this makes sense, people don’t often change their actions. They keep doing the same, hoping for different results. Why do we humans repeat the same actions, hoping that the effects will be different next time?
One important reason is that we haven’t really changed the way we understand, or ‘see’, the situation or the process. If we had a different perspective, we might consider taking some alternative action steps. Examining your work from a different viewpoint is often the key to better results!
This also explains why three different people can observe the same accident and give three different descriptions. We all “see” a particular situation through many filters, such as our history, our habits and tendencies, our motives, and our preconceived notions of what is and what should be.
Stephen Covey has made a helpful model of this stating that: “when you change the way you see things, it influences what you do and the results you get. If you want small changes, work on your behavior; if you want quantum-leap changes, work on paradigms.” Therefore if you change the way you “see” your work, your behavior will lead to the desired results and you don’t actually have to change anything. He calls this the efficient route. But if you don’t achieve your desired results, you have to search for a different perspective that leads to different actions with the possible effect that you do get your results. He calls this the effective route.
Here’s an example. If you think that COVID is comparable to the flu, you will be less likely to wash your hands and keep a distance of 1.5 meters. The result is a greater chance of getting infected with the virus. If you think COVID is life-threatening, chances are you will get vaccinated, resulting in a smaller chance of getting infected. How you perceive the world determines what you do, and determines the results of your actions.
What applies to us as individuals also applies to organizations that want to achieve results. If we want to achieve results as an organization, we must work with a mindset of success. If we as an organization want to achieve our goals we must develop mechanisms that allow us to look at our work from a different angle, and develop solutions to problems, rather than repeat the same mistakes of our predecessors expecting different results.
Start by examining your feedback process. Feedback tells us whether our current view triggers the right or wrong behavior to achieve our results. An additional challenge for organizations is that goals are often set for a longer period of time and we only receive feedback when we can no longer achieve our goals and need to be adjusted. An undesirable situation for any ambitious company.
The objectives and key results (OKR) strategic model offers a solution. The OKR strategy model has the same structure as Stephen Covey’s See-Do-Get model. Key Initiatives is the behavior (DO in Covey’s model), The Objectives is what you want to achieve with your behavior (GET in Covey’s model). And Key Results the behavioral measures that are an indicator of whether you are on your way to achieving your goal (SEE in Covey’s model).
So the feedback we need to know if we are on the right track is the key results in the OKR model. And because we generally omit this feedback in achieving our goals, we often persist in the same behavior. Key results are therefore an essential part of being successful as a person or organization in achieving your results. At the same time, properly defining these key results is also the most difficult thing there is. What always helps me in defining the key results is thinking the way a researcher thinks. How does that work?
Before a researcher begins, they begin by formulating a hypothesis. What factors influence the outcome they expect?
Suppose I have a resolution to drink two liters of water a day. Hypothesis one: A large bottle of water on the desk should be empty at the end of the day. No success. At the end of the day, I always had a half-full bottle. Hypothesis two: Keep track of my water consumption in an app. No success either, because of the same result (and more work). Hypothesis three: Drinking room temperature water because I always left my tea. You guessed it, no success either. Ultimately, hypothesis four was a success (so far). It is compulsory to drink a glass of water at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all coffees.
After formulating a goal, it is important to strategize how you will achieve it. With what behavior do I expect that I will succeed in achieving the set goals? Once you’ve figured out some ways, you’re going to try out the most promising ones. Not all at once, but the first one first, and if that doesn’t work the next. Until you find a way that works.
And now we see the benefits of a researcher’s mindset. You don’t stop when you have come up with one approach, but you come up with as many as possible. So you can keep going if the first approach doesn’t work until it works for you. A second advantage is that you will quickly receive interim feedback and that you can adjust the behavior that is necessary to achieve your goal.
When devising these different approaches, you can make use of drivers of new behavior. Capacity (what can help me to achieve my goal, both physically and psychologically), motivation (what matches my inner urge), and environment (how can I use the physical and my social environment to achieve my goal) to devise approaches that work to achieve your goal. In the case of drinking more water, for example, I could ensure that there is always a glass of water ready in places where I visit at fixed times (physical environment) and I could investigate whether I could perhaps add an element of competition to my intention to drink water (motivation).
It is therefore important in achieving our goals, as an individual or as a company, that we continue to look for opportunities and new approaches. What are our assumptions in order to achieve our goal and what concrete behavior goes with this? Covey’s SEE – DO – GET model and the OKR model help us do that.