Shortlink for Sharing:
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Reddit

Consulting Wisdom: Outcome vs. Process Thinking

Posted by .

A new study reinforces the challenge and importance of process thinking. The result? focusing on outcomes saves time, but limits our mindfulness.

As reported in Science Daily:

Consumer decisions often involve trade-offs between means and end benefits, such as weighing quality versus price, rewards versus risks, or enjoyment versus effort. Process-oriented thinkers tend to focus on both ends and means, making decisions more difficult.

This result is consistent with common sense. For example: it would be great fun to vacation overseas, but doing so requires spending money for the trip, taking time off work and enduring a long, cramped plane ride. Do we think about the journey or the destination?

Airplane Cabin

© Flickr user CLDoyle

We often structure our organizations based on end results. These include personal objectives, job descriptions, company goals or sales targets. Such details may represent an exciting destination, but the essential aspect of work is how we move towards the ideal. This is illustrated by one of the experiments in the study:

Participants were asked to choose between a small apartment that required a short commute and one that was larger but required a longer commute. The researchers instructed participants to either think about how living in the apartment would affect their daily routine and habits (process-oriented thinking) or to think about what they would gain from living in the apartment (outcome-oriented thinking). “Process-oriented participants thought about both the size of the apartment and the length of the commute, were less likely to choose the larger apartment, and experienced more difficulty making the choice,” the authors write.

Apartment for Rent Sign

© Flickr user stevendamron

Although the quote characterizes process-oriented thinking as “more difficult,” the increase in consideration is actually beneficial. A major decision should inspire effort. If actively thinking about “how living in the apartment would affect their daily routine and habits” encourages stakeholders to be more conscientious, then  process-oriented thinking is arguably superior. The experiment also leads to an outcome that considers the full impact of living closer to work: a more efficient use of time.

Here at AccelaWork, we believes that the most powerful method for improving productivity and satisfaction among stakeholders is to empower them with the knowledge, authority and responsibility to analyze and implement processes. Focusing on choices forces us to slow down and review details. But here’s a business consulting secret: too many choices create problems as well. Empowered individuals have options, but not so many they are overwhelmed and cannot make a decision.

Ready to look beyond outcome-oriented thinking? Talk to the business process consultants at AccelaWork.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Reddit