Clarify the Endpoint for Sound Decision-Making

By Dawna Jones

The need to make a decision starts when a problem needs to be solved, when an opportunity to improve a current practice presents itself, or when a need exists to radically change how things get done. Action is required. What you want to accomplish — your endpoint (essentially the goal or result) — is defined by how the change serves the company and customer.

These events — the circumstance initiating the action and the endpoint of the decisions that are made in response — mark the start and finish to any decision.

Identify what will be different

Knowing the endpoint helps you envision what a successful outcome looks like and frames the questions the outcome must address, whether you’re solving a problem, changing a company policy, or articulating long-term direction.

Issues and opportunities typically motivate action. To arrive at a logical and attainable endpoint, consider what needs to be different as a result of taking action. Will an issue be resolved, an opportunity be used to advantage, or costs reduced? Articulating what will be different helps you gain clarity on what you seek to accomplish.

Articulate the endpoint

Identifying the problem in your current situation enables you recognize the issue you’re addressing. If the problem you’re addressing is the high cost of your company’s turnover rate, you may identify endpoints such as the following:

  • To reduce costs of employee turnover by 20 percent by the end of the next quarter: This endpoint uses a financial metric to signal success. When resolving problems or issues, the endpoints describe what the successful resolution of a problem or issue will be in measurable terms.

  • To make your company a great place to work: Alternatively, you can step back to take a more visionary approach. For example, you may ask, “What can you do to make your company the best place to work?” This example articulates a higher goal — making the company a great place to work — that invites creative solutions and that can engage employee ideas for how to accomplish the goal.

Note the difference in focus between these two examples. In the first example, you focus on reducing employee turnover, a narrower lens that is more likely to engage a logical, rational problem-solving approach. The second example (making your company a great place to work) is far more aspirational and inspirational, and its solution is likely more open-ended.

As a result, it will attract more creative solutions. Either approach can achieve the goal of reducing employee turnover by the desired 20 percent. The difference is in the process and the kind of thinking you encourage and apply to achieve the that reduction.

Clarify the endpoint

After you articulate your endpoint, your next step is to set direction and agree on the performance results. One way is to ask team members, “What changes do you want to see or observe when the change is complete?”

If, for example, the endpoint is to make your company a great place to work (the second example from the preceding section), you can ask something like this: “When asked why your company is the best place to work, what would employees say?” Possible ideas could include, “We have a self-directed learning and development plan in place,” or “We have a space set aside to kick back and casually exchange ideas.”

When using this method, avoid answers that are actually steps in the process rather than the endpoint. For example, if you want to see a reduction in employee turnover, you wouldn’t fill in the blank with “when we understand why people are leaving.” This is akin to saying the endpoint of building a house is finishing the blueprints.

Uncovering why people are leaving is only one step of many toward achieving the stated goal. A clearer endpoint in this scenario would be something like, “We will have reduced employee turnover when employees see themselves as valued members of the family and choose to stay instead of seek employment with a competitor.”

A poorly thought-out or unclear endpoint can waste time and effort and confuse employees. Your team needs to know what your expectations are without having to second guess by finding out, as they go through the process, what you don’t want.

Ineffective communication almost always results in a disjointed effort because not everybody knows or understands the endpoint or the destination you’re all working toward. Therefore, when you want to effectively communicate the endpoint, communicate it to the group to avoid having it passed on from one member to the next.