Focusing on Direction Over Destination

When an initiative is broken into segments, the direction of those segments becomes more critical, often more important than the destination itself. A key benefit of segmentation is that even though a broad, large-scale objective may never be fully achieved, the successful execution of one or more smaller efforts typically results in real incremental value for the organization. From this perspective, success is measured not by the implementation of a 'thing' but by progress achieved towards a set of objectives.

Take for example the concept of consolidation. Whether the focus is redundant organizations, roles, or systems, if the goal is to consolidate it down to one, every stakeholder must buy in completely to achieve that goal. However, if the effort is segmented into smaller efforts where receptive groups consolidate first, followed by the consolidation of a few more groups that were straddling the fence, even if the remaining groups refuse to budge redundancy is significantly reduced. Progress is made regardless of whether the ultimate goal is ever achieved. This shift in approach, though frequently subtle, can suddenly generate progress where previously none seemed possible.

Embracing this concept often solves another point of paralysis for efforts, taking the first step. Many efforts are stalled at the point of transition from vision or plan to action because that initial step represents a complete and total buy-in to the whole concept or destination. By removing that burden from the first point of action, and instead framing that the first step may also be the last if it makes sense, the ability to move forward is often enabled. When one federal organization was considering whether to support a public-private initiative to build a new type of plant, the effort went through years of internal debate. Once a decision was made to just kick-off formal planning with industry because that alone would offer enormous value even if they didn’t move forward after that, progress on design, information sharing, and innovation was enabled.