From Here to There

As an analytical thinker, I ponder future outcomes in both home and work life, and the intermediate steps to see transformation from the current to the future state of affairs. The analogy I often use is that of directing a water craft from its current location to some desired location, through a set of strategic, intentional maneuvers. In a work context, the ship might be a large vessel with a significant number of crew and complex machinery supporting the stability and progress of the vessel. On a personal level, the craft might be a tandem sea kayak. Differences between the two craft include the number of people on board, the resources required to put and keep the craft in motion, and the safety of the vessel to traverse various types of water systems.

Setting the destination for the voyage, planning the course for the voyage, acquiring the necessary resources for the voyage, setting out on the voyage, adjusting the route as warranted by changing circumstances, concluding the voyage, and reflecting on the voyage are significant steps in the process. Each one of these steps requires time, effort, and resources in their planning and execution phases. Knowing the destination and the purpose of that destination as opposed to another destination, sets the foundation for the subsequent steps.

I prefer the word "outcomes" when describing the intended destination. Outcomes are the changes in attitude, knowledge, belief, ability, etc. that are desired and to which each of the activities, inputs, and outputs strive to support. Outcomes are a set of desired, anticipated, and expected future realities that do not exist at all or only partially at the current time. A helpful framing question is "What does success look like?" for the individuals directly engaged in the activities and those people or social, political, or economic systems on which the activities are intended to have some influence (most of these ideas I gleaned from wiser people with whom I've worked, in particular Sanjeev Khagram).

In a formal outcomes planning exercise, pieces of information are gathered, organized, and evaluated as part of the process. Even during informal outcomes planning processes, an individual or a small group of people will necessarily need and acquire information as part of evaluation activities. Now I am the type of person who finds pleasure in gathering, organizing, and analyzing these bits of information into some type of electronic system, whether simple or complex. I recognize that other types of people prefer simple information management systems: I would build a Trello board; they would grab a used envelope and dull pencil.

What analogy do you use when pondering the issues around "where are we now, where do we want to be, and how do we get there"?

On a personal and practical level, I chew on these issues of outcomes planning because summer break is fast approaching for my children, and I desire for them to take advantage of unstructured time. I desire them to grow in a deeper understanding of who they are in this world, their personal views on the issues of our times, and stretch themselves into confident leaders, thinkers, and compassionate human beings (among other lofty father desires). Success for them is simply not being in the classroom. Perhaps we can find middle ground where I support and encourage them to achieve something beyond engaging in a set of activities and actually recognizing personal growth through enjoyable, meaningful activities.

My son wants me to support his ambitions this summer, so we created a Trello board and are slowly building it out from a simple set of products and activities to something that could resemble a thoughtful set of outcomes, activities, inputs, and outputs. My daughter uses a white board in her room for identifying goals and activities; that might be the technology she and I use. On the analogy front, she is not a fan of boats in general, so I may have to speak her language and talk about horse care instead.