Objective-Oriented Business Improvement

Please check for future installments in our video series on this topic.

Cooperation drives success.  Cooperation is the main focus of enterprise, where incorporation is used to create entities of cooperating individuals.  There are other terms for cooperation: teamwork, being on the same page, marching to the same drummer, having common interests, shared vision, etc.  Cooperation can be pursued by various means, including force of personality, intimidation, love, logic, and mutual agreement.

Below, we describe a foundation for cooperation that relies on logic and mutual agreement.  It has its roots in software engineering and US military methodology.  It begins by establishing those things that are most important to an organization, which we call objectives.

Objectives are general statements of purpose or desired ends.  If you believe that “the ends” should justify the “the means” (or that it is important to have a destination before starting a trip) you must first understand these “ends”.  To achieve this understanding, we formally define these ends and label them objectives. Examples of objectives are success, profitability, efficiency, effectiveness, and stability.  There are also more qualitative objectives like respect, influence, gratification, and contentment. As an example, the lead objective of Automation Consultants is "To improve the business lives of our clients".

To achieve objectives we establish goals.  Goals are specific targets, with associated metrics, deadlines, and resource budgets.  Goals always have quantified metrics, like football scores.

Please be aware that there are differing conventions on these terms.  Some refer to the top-level purposes or desired overall ends as goals, with underlying objectives servicing them.  If you prefer this convention, please mentally swap goals and objectives as you continue reading.  Our convention stems from second-hand gleanings of Operations Research instruction at the Naval Postgraduate School and the book "A Methodology for Systems Engineering" by Arthur Hall.  If you focus on business planning or marketing, see "The Marketing Plan" by William Cohen.

Objective-Oriented Business Improvement™ (OOBI™)

OOBI is our way of determining and agreeing on what an organizations objectives are, and then providing a structured plan to accomplish them.  Although we mainly apply it to business, it works for all organizations.

The first step in OOBI™ is to create an objective tree, which reflects the fact that some objectives are more important and some depend on others.  For example, profitability, served by efficiency and sales volume, defines a simple objective tree with two branches.

simpleobjectivetreeAfter an objective tree is initially defined, documented, and discussed, it is important to establish an ongoing process so that suggestions and elaborations can be incorporated, and agreement confirmed as the tree grows and is adjusted.  Some organizations may not quickly identify higher-order objectives, but readily express lower-order ones like “To have staff proficient with accounting software”.  Others may express points of pain, from which we can derive objectives, such as, "I get too many complaints".  Objectives can be collected at any level, but high-order objectives must eventually be identified and understood.  As objectives are defined, it becomes clear how they relate.  For example, if we start with "To  optimize efficiency" as above, and ask the question why, we would answer with a higher-order objective, namely "To enhance profitability".  Similarly, if we begin with "To enhance profitability" and ask the question how, we would answer with the lower-order objectives "To optimize efficiency" and "To maximize sales".

After objectives are established, the next step is to establish goals.  Goals can be viewed as specific objectives with time and other resource constraints.  “Provide marketing feedback of number of units sold with profit derived by next February 29”, is an example of a goal.  It is important that goals include specific metrics, defined and documented with a clear criterion for success so that the attainment of a goal will not be questioned (or gamed).

Once initial objectives are named and goals set, the next step is to devise strategies to meet these goals.  It is possible for one strategy to service more than one goal and, of course, more than one strategy may be required to meet a particular goal.  For example, the strategy of collecting all appropriate sales data into one database may serve our February 20 goal above, and also other goals.  Formulating strategies benefits from creativity.

The last step in our process is to formulate tasks to execute each strategy.  A task can serve more than one strategy, but this is not common.  A task is a specific action, such as "Install CRM" or "Train Users to collect all appropriate sales data".  Some refer to these steps as tactics.

We can provide examples of common objectives, strategies, and tasking, but prefer to first collect unbiased ideas so we do not overlook important insights.  One important point is that as an object-oriented structure is created and executed, any part may change.  In our original example, for instance, we may at some point discover that increasing sales volume does not serve profitability.  Such a change usually spawns other changes that radiate down the tree to maintain consistency.

OOBI™, in our practice

Below are attributes of an OOBI™ candidate that enable us to meet our objective of improving the business life of our client.

  • Interested in improving their business lives
  • Willing to invest sufficient time and resources to define their objectives and goals
  • Having sufficient discipline to implement changes, measure their effects, and institute improvements
  • Having sufficient objectivity to judge the results of change and the creativity to design improvements

You can find much discussion and many images by searching on <business "objective tree" goal strategy>.  Many methodologies similar to OOBI™ are practiced in the private sector, government, and the military, and in Project Management.  Our formulation has been refined over a number of decades to benefit our clients.

Because it is difficult to measure the effects of change with flawed data, a crucial ally of OOBI™ is information quality.  This topic can also be explored through The International Association for Information and Data Quality (IAIDQ) – www.iaidq.com.

Our example -- Here are the top objectives in the Automation Consultants objective tree, we have three of equal importance. We are happy to discuss the goals, strategies, and tactics we have adopted to serve these objectives.

I. Objective: To improve the lives and business success of our clients
II. Objective: To generate sufficient revenue to sustain ACinc operations and support growth
III. Objective: To showcase ACinc as an example of good business practices and systems