Calling all Results-Based Accountability and public sector leaders – you’re not going to want to miss this new book by Raj Chawla of the OCL Group!
Choose Results! – by Raj Chawla – is a deeply considered call to action to leaders committed to improving people’s wellbeing.
Grounded in the fields of action learning, collaborative thinking, and collective action, Choose Results elucidates the necessary but difficult task of collaborating with others in ways that align action, de-emphasize the personal, and leverage parallel lines of work with in-depth examples from boots-on-the-ground work.
It provides methods, worksheets, and templates to give leaders the tools and practices they need to work effectively with multiple stakeholders and partners across bureaucracies big and small.
Check out our interview with Raj below:
What prompted you to write this book?
It is difficult for leaders to come together and work for the sake of a shared population level result. To put that shared population level result in the center of their work, they have to let go of certain mental models they carry, learn and practice new frames and methods, and then translate this work for their internal and external partners and stakeholders. This book was designed – initially – to support those leaders in the translation and back home practice.
As I wrote the book it dawned on me that there are many other leaders interested in working towards population level results who would never have an opportunity to engage in a cohort-like experience with facilitation and guidance on learning the results framework. I wondered if I could create a book that would allow these leaders to practice these frames and methods on their own. Ultimately, this book is designed to support leaders to practice results leadership and see what they can create.
In Choose Results! call-to-action, Jolie Bain Pillsbury touches on the fact that there are tens of thousands of books available on leadership. In her opinion, the value-add of Choose Results! lies in the transformative and proven leadership methods shared. In your own words, what makes your book different from others and what is the value-add?
Most leadership books are designed to focus on the leader and what the leader can do to influence or move or cajole others to better perform tasks. Often these books are about the exceptionalism of that leader. This book is about results as the leader – a metaphor about putting results in the center of the work and what cross-sector partners can do together, in alignment, to make progress towards that result.
Many leadership books tend to focus just on the individual, or on the individual in relationship with others. I use the integral model offered by Ken Wilber and suggest there are four levels that must be addressed for leaders to work with results in the center.
First, the focus on the self. This focuses on the values and beliefs that support a leader in doing this kind of work, an awareness that a leader comes with his or her own mental models and that these mental models offer–at best– a partial truth about the world. Therefore, a leader has to hold a learner stance when engaging in this work.
Second, the focus on a leader in relationship with other leaders. Here the focus is on the leader’s ability to honor your word, your role, and your relationship with others. In practice, this looks like making and keeping your accountability to others, knowing what your role is and what is expected in your role, and the building of resilient relationships with others – relationships that can endure conflict, differing points of view, and stress.
Third, the focus on the group of leaders and their ability to create a culture that supports results work. Because results work is stressful, it is important to have a culture that is robust and reinforces results as the primary task of the work. This means that the leaders will create a culture that puts a premium on values and beliefs that promote accountability, transparency, and learning, and uses language and artifacts that support a bias to action and create urgency of the work.
Finally, the focus on the group of leaders executing towards scope and scale. This highlights the importance of leaders who create targets to time, develop a set of overarching strategies, and implement a process that is intent on scaling the work.
The concept of the “complex public problem” underpins much of what you write in Choose Results! What are public problems and why are they so complicated?
Public problems – problems associated with education, health, and community, for example – are those that are important to and impact all people. What makes these public problems complex is that they are connected to multiple sectors and systems, involve multiple stakeholders and partners, have no ready solutions, and require new learning and experimentation in attempting their resolution.
The challenge with public problems is that they have multiple stakeholders with their own points of view and interests, and there is, somewhat naturally, a tendency for those stakeholders to define the problem to match their point of view and interests. This, in turn, creates competition and fragmentation. At best, incremental progress is made. The work to produce results is to understand that because each person has only a partial understanding of any public problem, then stakeholders have to come together and combine their efforts to make an aligned contribution toward a shared result that will contribute to solving the problem.
What is the problem with how we currently solve public problems? In your opinion, what should be doing differently?
This connects to the notions of fragmentation and competition. Political leaders, funders and other authorizing bodies, such as government agencies and not-for-profits, have a tendency to promote favored projects or interests with short-term thinking. However, public problems cannot be addressed fully through quick fixes or solved by one central authorizing body. Meaning, for example, a foundation can’t solve a problem through funding a favored project over a 3-year funding cycle.
There is a tendency for these political leaders, organization executives, and/or funders to promote the quick-fix or the easy victory, only to lose interest when the work gets too complicated or other urgent issues arise. Fragmentation is a consequence of this short-term, quick-fix approach. I define fragmentation as when stakeholders who are deeply connected to the problem at hand see themselves as more separate from each other than united, as competitors rather than allies. Stakeholders in this state of fragmentation exist in an environment where information, knowledge and resources are muddled and scattered. Fragmentation can also be a condition where accountability is limited, blame is abundant, and stakeholders get stuck in a cycle of failure.
What results leadership does differently is help stakeholders move from solving problems to creating results. This means putting results in the center of the work and thereby creating a shared framework to execute towards that result. Stakeholders learn to use data to define and measure progress and learn how to create a results culture that supports both hierarchical and heterarchical authority.
In Choose Results!, you present the Results Leadership framework as a more effective way of achieving public sector results. Can you briefly describe what Results Leadership entails?
Results Leadership entails executing with others in high action and high alignment—and knowing that this is fundamentally an act of leadership. In the results framework, leaders hold the role of learner because the work is complex and multifaceted, realize they have limited points of view, and learn to work with others by holding their role. They also create a results culture that incorporates accountability with themselves and others, resilient relationships that put results at the heart of work, and an approach that addresses system-wide problems that are at the root of the challenges they face.
Many of our readers are familiar with the Results-Based Accountability framework. In what ways is Results Leadership similar to or different from RBA?
RBA is a powerful frame for leaders to create a shared results action plan where they know the difference between the whole population and indicators they are jointly working towards, and their individual contributions as measured through their program performance measures linked to that result. Results leadership is designed to guide leaders as they execute towards the result, address the complexities involved, confront the associated political and adaptive challenges, and focus on reaching scope and scale in the shared work. The work to produce results is, ultimately, a leadership and political challenge.
Other than reading Choose Results! of course, what is your most important piece of advice for public sector organizations struggling to achieve results?
Have a bias to action. Which means, once a shared result has been identified by a group of stakeholders they work together to establish a baseline and set a target for their work, outline how to measure progress, adopt strategies to implement right away (even if they aren’t certain of the outcome) and execute! In that space—of action—they will learn together about what works and what doesn’t and make changes to their strategies as needed. This course correction can only be discovered through being in action, together.
In this type of work, what should the main role of a leader be? What are the most important qualities of leaders?
A results leader is someone who puts results at the heart of their work first and foremost. With the results at the center, the results leader works to create a culture that supports meeting those results, including holding a learner stance, being accountable to their role and supporting others to be accountable to theirs, and implementing with the discipline of using data.
About the Author:
Raj Chawla, Principal of The OCL Group, has over 20 years of experience in leadership development and organizational and executive coaching, with a primary focus on helping leaders make a measurable difference in the quality of life of the people in their communities. Raj has guided many organizations seeking to transform their culture from a program- and/or grant-based framework to a results framework where stakeholders share a common population level result as the focus of their work and align their actions around that result.
Raj is a master facilitator equipped to use and teach Results Based Facilitation skills, which enable groups and teams to move from talk to action while holding results in the center, and serves on the Board of the Results Based Facilitation Network. He is a gifted public speaker with a unique ability to connect leaders’ inherent passion for making a difference to the discipline of using data to inform decisions and to the humbling vulnerability needed to engage in the new learning that is required to choose results over personal agendas.
Raj is also a Master Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation and has helped hundreds of executives and leaders at all levels produce results. He is an Ambassador with the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community, a group of selected leaders who support leaders and organizations in the field of high performance.