When I first came across the Outcome Relationship Model (ORM) I think I was pretty ‘under-whelmed’. I just couldn’t see the point of it. Over time, however, I have come to see it as an invaluable analysis tool. It helps me to break out of linear causal thinking; I can use it to move more towards what Pete Senge calls ‘Systems Thinking’.
On our MSP course we introduce people to the ORM fairly early on, under the whole discussion around identifying benefits. In a programme context the example given in the manual is at a fairly high level; it concerns social policy around improving public teaching at a national government level. As such, this example does not resonate with some delegates. I can see them show interest when I introduce them to benefits modelling; but not in the humble ORM.
Recently, whilst working with a client that seeks greater throughput on a large programme, I felt the need to explain better how attention to the basic disciplines of quality planning and review would help. I had observed remote, high-level quality plans, and fairly haphazard reviews by anyone who was available, against no clear criteria. Clearly this was not an environment where there was repeatable, managed process. So, to illustrate, I turned to the humble ORM.
This was the result. It shows a systems causal change from more consistent behaviours around quality planning and review, can lead to some interesting intermediate benefits, such as ‘Less defects slip through’, to the End Benefit (Great Throughput) that is the prize for this kind of client.
The ORM shows how the causal links are circular and amplifying – what Senge calls the ‘snowball effect’. For example, ‘Greater Throughput’ encourages people to engage even more with agile quality planning, and so on. This is helpful in the context of discussions around the value of Maturity Models such as P2MM and CMMI as I find there is not much illustration on how attention to basic disciplines such as these can result in a step change in an organisation’s performance.
I’ve added another twist to this example ORM. I’ve added colour coding to suggest where something is an enabling behaviour, an intermediate benefit, and an end benefits. So it is easier for the planner to make the transformation to a more linear benefits model.
Your comments on this would be very welcome.