I’m often working with executives to come up with timelines and priorities, and I’m often working with older children to help them understand what I need to know in order to help them make a decision or complete something, and–I promise I’m not making a correlation between executives and children here–through this I’ve learned how valuable it is to understand and communicate the impact something will have.
Often it is challenging enough for ourselves to understand the impact of something, much less be able to articulate it well. We might understand that there’s intrinsic value, or assume that there might be good in it, and the more often we can break down exactly what that value is, the more it will help when we need to talk about the what the value is for others.
I know I have an opportunity myself to practice talking about the value something will have whenever I’m inclined to say with some level of frustration or exacerbation, “Oh, just get it done.” Let me be clear, there’s nothing wrong with taking the “because I said so” approach. It’s a shortcut we take because it does work sometimes, especially when you add in emotion. But when I pay attention, it’s a clear indicator of when I might make time to explain the impact better, which I may or may not have made time to figure that out yet even.
A similar indicator that there’s a chance to look at impact more looks like, “Oh, it will be easier if I just do it.” Another clue is when I’m thinking that it’s too complicated to get things moving or make decisions. While that genuinely may be the case, it’s also a case to step up and make a better case based on impact, and possibly improve the complicated decision making process as I do that, since this is part of a great framework for making your own decisions. For instance, if using the RICE formula to prioritize product needs, or categorizing your own to-do list or goals, knowing the impact gives an interesting data point to factor in.
The Common Values
These are the four things I always come back to when I want to evaluate or describe the impact of something.
- Making or saving money
- Saving time
- Attracting and retaining employees and customers
- Researching and learning
Human Physical/Mental Motivators
- Seeking pleasure
- Saving energy
- Staying safe
- Making progress
Interestingly but not surprisingly, there are correlations between these lists.
These show there are common values that have universal appeal.
While you can find several varieties of these categories, and entire books on them, on a day-to-day basis I simply think of it as EFsG&I (think of EFGHI as a pseudo-mnemonic): [E]asy and [F]un, [F]ast (note the two Fs), [G]ood, and (skip the H to get to…) [I]mproving.
The idea is to take a look at aspects of what is being discussed to understand the impact. What is the value added and associated cost for each consideration point. Take a simple example like an artist looking into a four-week class to know how to make clay vases:
E+F – I’ll have a respected expert show me proven pottery techniques and give valuable feedback as I go, with access to all the tools and resources in their studio. It will cost $750.
F – Based on my research and experience, it will likely take three months of self-guided study and trial and error to figure it out on my own until I’m producing vases on my own. The class will take three hours each week, and about four hours of preparation overall. Estimating 80 hours saved and two months elapsed time.
G – Clients have been requesting pottery so this will be a good addition to my portfolio, plus the quality of what I’ll produce will be higher and I’ll learn best practices and safety techniques. This art I create can be used by myself to give gifts, and my customers to bring beauty into their spaces.
I – I’m developing my talents, and I will be connecting with more artists in my community.
Sometimes it’s not worth going to great lengths to understand or describe the impact of a decision or request, but having a framework like this to work through it when it’s warranted is very useful.
While these four value points are universal principles, they don’t universally carry the same weight in a given situation or person. At times, some may be more important or relevant than others. It’s worth evaluating EFsG&I once for yourself and again for someone else involved, as that can significantly improve decision making and alignment. This is something I think about often at work, but it definitely applies in personal relationships as well, where it results in fewer arguments and more connection when I do it.
When you can better understand your own views on how it will affect you, and can provide insight on how something matters to someone else, it greatly increases the effectiveness of the discussion. And when you can appeal to the impact of something and speak to it relative to the impact of other options, all the better.
I’ve been thinking about this lately in particular as I’ve been thinking a lot about negotiating, so stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to work an impact assessment into that!