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How to Succeed: Think Like an Owner

Owning the Outcome, Not Just the Process

How could someone see a world awash in sickness and death in the Covid pandemic and take ownership of discovering how to save it?  Who could own saving a planet and doing it in a year?

The global pandemic of Covid-19 is an amazing story we’ll tell our grandchildren about a world suddenly in lockdown and how that impacted our lives.

A Husband/Wife Team Own the Job of Saving the World
 But the really amazing piece of this history that we’re often missing is the unprecedented story of the creation of the Covid-19 vaccines—in less than a year four vaccines.

The vaccine was initially created by two scientists—a husband/wife team, Ugar Sahib and Ozlem Tureci, based in Mainz, Germany. These two amazing heroes took it upon themselves to own the key outcome that would save the world—a vaccine that is effective to the high 90 percent effectiveness rate. 

They saw a world in peril—a pandemic that threatened to decimate the world’s population–and personally took it upon themselves to come up with the answer. 

The Owner of Outcomes Owns Their World
People who own outcomes own their world. 

The organizing principle of business teams is ownership of an outcome—what does my team do to sell, fix, and deliver products and services to enable us to dominate our market?    As I become that person who enables my team to primarily own and achieve outcomes, the chances of my getting laid off, fired, or pushed into an insignificant role become less and less. 

Owning the Outcome, Now the Outcome
If I’m purely invested in process, I will be eliminated from the process as it becomes automated.  If I’m a project manager, what I do to manage a project will be done by a computer—what I do will be absorbed by AI.  My father worked for an oil company in the 1950s that bought pipe to build pipelines.  When the pipe was delivered each week, he counted each and every pipe and hand-recorded the count on paper forms.  For decades what my father did back then has been a tiny blip in an automated proves—not touched by human hands.

If today you’re programming a website or creating an app, these are key jobs now which in a few years will be done instantly by artificial intelligence.   The growth in the use of AI will be stunning in the next few years.

People who survive and thrive will be the people who think like owners of business outcomes.  They will have a real sense of how their organization solves problems, distributes goods and services, and makes money.  They will proactively anticipate both problems and opportunities before they appear, and they will come forward with solutions, fixes, and plans before anyone else even sees the need.

Here are some critical things that you should be thinking about. 

  1. Don’t Just be an “Order Taker.”  I had a boss/mentor when I was young who taught me how to own outcomes and “not be an “order taker.”  He never outlined project details.  He explained the outcome to me and we calculated when we would set the deadline.  He always explained to me how my project moved the needle of organizational success.

    People who can’t move past process to planning and strategy to think like an owner will find themselves without a place in organizations.    In decades past, order taking was big.  We all stepped into a place of business and the first thing we were asked was, “How can I help you?” Those days are fast coming to an end and the people who do those jobs are fewer and fewer.  We can get an online order tomorrow delivered to our home.  Check-out people in businesses are going away, as self-service replaces them.

    No matter where you work, the principle is the same if you are part of the process, not the planning and strategy.  If you’re an order taker, what you do will be automated.  Only to the extent that you own the outcome will you move into the role of managing the process.
  2. Think Like an Owner. Business owners and entrepreneurs create organizations that are the foundation of our civilization and our way of life.  Business organizations house, feed, clothe and entertain us.  They provide opportunity for us and our  families.  I think that working in business is the most exciting way that I can spend my life.

    When I walk into a business as an employee (in my case a gig, as a consultant) I always see myself as CEO of the company.  Far from being delusional, thinking of myself as the owner/CEO gives me a perspective that allows me to help the organization make decisions that are critical to their success.  As someone who works in an organization, your ability to be successful will be in relation to thinking like an owner.  If you own a business, you need people who understand how the business works and people who think like senior management.
  3. Align with Your Team to Own the Outcome.  In order to own and deliver an outcome, it’s critical to align with your team to achieve the outcome.  If Ugar Sahib and Ozlem Tureci, the Covid-19 vaccine developers, had developed the vaccine and not been aligned witht millions of others who distributed it, the answer to the world’s pandemic would have been locked in a laboratory somewhere in Mainz, Germany. 

    The strategy to deliver the vaccine included financing, high tech transportation, and storage protocols.  If at any point there were not a high level leadership team who owned the whole process, the vaccines would have ended up lost in a warehouse never reaching anyone’s arms—and in fact this did happen more than once.  But an amazing, aligned group of people is coordinating the efforts of millions to achieve the goal.

The outcome of delivering the Covid-19 vaccine to a waiting world is a stunning example of owning an outcome and seeing it through from inception to success.   What is the outcome that you own that will achieve the outcome the founders of your organization envisioned from the beginning?  If you can be that person who thinks like an owner to achieve critical outcomes, you will succeed against any odds.  You will be the key part of any initiative going forward and you will always have a place on the team.

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