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Date Posted: 4/17/2018
By Kevin Carpenter, contact:

IDM™ Blog 1B


Today we continue our series on applying IDM™ to your business. As discussed in the first IDM™ blog, I’ll take you through the process, the approach and the lessons I’ve learned applying IDM™ to Technology projects across industries.

Over the next few months I’ll discuss the steps of the IDM™ process in sequence, with the associated tools and techniques, as well as how we’ve applied IDM™ to technologies impacting Oil and Gas Exploration, Production, Commercial Activities, Information Technologies, Business Growth Strategies, and more.

The top of each blog will have a number and letter so if you save these to your computer or print them to OneNote, you can easily keep the order of the flow.



In the last blog, I talked about the principles of IDM and the overall process flow, as well as why decision making can be difficult. Let’s look today what each process step is intended to provide.  Then we’ll dive into one of my favorite CLARIFY tools. The process begins with CLARIFY and EXPLORE


The CLARIFY step is used to:

  • Gain a common understanding of the opportunity or problem.

  • Understand how solving the problem or capturing the opportunity aligns with the organization.

  • Agree on any constraints on the solution possibilities.

  • Understand the aspirational benefits which could be achieved if we solve the problem or capture the opportunity (regardless of what we decide to do).

  • Surface hidden objectives and biases which may be entrenched in the organization, or individual team members, and understand why they exist with validation.

The EXPLORE step is used to:

  • Define the possible solutions* to solve the problem or capture the opportunity.

  • Understand the factors and uncertainties that could impact the success of the different solutions.

Often times, the CLARIFY and EXPLORE steps are performed together in a team workshop lasting 1 to 2 days. The workshop duration is dependent on the complexity of the problem and how many participants are involved in the workshop.  I’ve found an ideal audience is 6-8 participants to effectively balance the need for a broad range of thought and an efficient gathering of ideas.  However, a workshop is not a required activity.  The CLARIFY step can happen through interviews with key stakeholders and experts, and the Design can be an iterative process of creation and review with the team.  A workshop is certainly the fastest and most cost-effective approach.


The EVALUATE activities are designed to:

  • Understand of the impacts of the factors and uncertainties outlined in the Design phase.

  • Calculate the value associated with better defining an uncertainty or controlling its outcome (partially or completely).

  • Understand which factors have the greatest impact on the range of the results.

  • Understand which factors “make or break” one alternative versus another.

  • Decide which alternative, with modifiers identified by the insights above, is proposed as the solution.

“Modeling” as used in IDM™ can take many forms.  At KCA, we often use a Monte Carlo Excel add-in such as Oracle’s Crystal Ball or Palisades’ @Risk.   However sometimes, it’s as simple as constructing a decision tree that stages the decisions and their key uncertainties.  While “Modeling” can involve a broader set of analysis such as activity simulators, portfolio assessments, business cases, or scenario mapping – in it’s most basic form decision modeling should only include the modeling required to make a quality decision and differentiate between the solution alternatives.


OPTIMIZE & IMPLEMENT formally incorporates the learnings and insights from the EVALUATE step into the execution plans.  Alternatives, KPI monitoring, and key indicators are identifited to assess if the solution aligns with the modeled behavior as the solution is deployed.  Without this step, the execution plan will take the proposed solution and modeled results as a given outcome and ignore the effect uncertainty has on the deployed model.   


The OPTIMIZE & IMPLEMENT step is created to:

  • Assure the value associated with influencing uncertain outcomes is captured.

  • Assure the achievement of the Objectives identified in the Grounding step is reported by their owners.

  • Adapt the solution as uncertain events unfold and optimize the project value.

ClarifyAs we work through the process, I’ll discuss in much more detail the principles and tools driving each step.  At this point, let’s go back to the start of CLARIFY and look at some of the tools we use in starting an IDM™ project.

The first purpose of CLARIFY is to gain a common understanding of the opportunity or problem.  This begins with the team lead presenting or discussing an overview of the opportunity.   The discussion usually takes about a half hour and can be a formal presentation or discussion between the lead and our Consultant.  During this time, we're actively listening for key decisions, uncertainties and objectives as well as any limits which may be place on the project.  Following the discussion, we will write up the "Opportunity Statement".  This has a structured form designed to put the oppourtinity before the team into the broader context of the company and the industry.  An example might be "As the energy markets recover and the industry seeks to expand their exploration portfolio, our company "Independent Oil" has elected to foucs on off-shore plays in shallow water.  Our team has the opportunity to develop cost savings technology specifice to shallow water plays and provide a competitive advantage to our company".  By putting the team opporutnity into the context of the company and broader industry, it provides a grounded basis for even investigating the opportunity.  This is a much more solid statement than saying "We have the opportunity to improve our technology solutions". 

The second point of Clarify is to understand how solving the problem or capturing the opportunity aligns with the organization.  While the Opportunity Statement starts this alignment, the formal Strategic Fit lists the points in the organization (corporate, business unit, geographical unit, operating group, etc) where this opportunity specifically aligns with the stated and published goals of the other groups.  This goes a long way toward answering the stakeholder question “why should I care about your project?”.

The Overview of the Opportunity, the Opportunity Statement, and Strategic Fit are designed to be broad and high level.  But now we come to the Strategic Question that forces the team to align in detail on what they are trying to do, with a bit of why they are trying to do it.

The Strategic Question is unique to IDM™ and created by our company to focus the team on the key opportunity and ensure they answer the right question.  It was created when we heard stories of the decision panel saying to the team “you did a great job, but you answered the wrong question”. The most severe case of this happened to a colleague in a past life when he designed a capital expansion at one asset site only to be informed after three months “great work, but there’s no way this is being installed there…. it’s being installed at plant a hundred miles away”.  (I’m paraphrasing to protect the colleague and edit the expletives the manager used that day). 

For the Strategic Question, we use what I call a “Fuller Statement” that askes the team to complete the following:  How can a way that... so that... 

Strategic Question


And while this may seem elementary*, it has a key purpose which quickly become apparent in the process.


With a diverse team, the members believe they have a common understanding on what they are trying to do, and why they are trying to do it, when in fact their various backgrounds and experiences bias these views.  Without alignment on the Strategy Question, a team member might shout out 3 weeks into the project – “but ABC is not what this project is about….. we’re supposed to be doing XYZ….”


The other hidden gem of the tool is it becomes a starting point for the Objectives Hierarchy, discussed in a future blog.  The Strategic Question lists the means objectives under the “How can we…”, the competing objectives to be optimized under the “in a way that….”, and the highest objective or reason for doing the project under the “so that…”.   When this tool is facilitated, we let the team bullet point the phrases without challenge and only discuss the points after the team has had a chance to list their points.  Like many of the tools in the IDM™ process, the discussion leading to the development of the deliverable is often more important than the deliverable itself.


Next time, I’ll discuss the Vision, Scope, SWOT and the magic of “Issues Raising”.


As always, if you have comments or thoughts you’d like to share, please drop me a note! (if you want to know why I call it a “Fuller Statement”, you’ll have to email me!) Kevin Carpenter | Email:





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