Deciding to make progress

Dr. Adam Tacy PhD, MBA avatar

Editing below here

The progress decision process identifies the decisions a progress seeker makes, and when, as they attempt to make progress on their own. That is to say without the help of any progress propositions.

(For the more impatient…the engagement decision process builds on this process reflecting that progress propositions introduce additional progress. Reducing progress hurdles is a hunting ground for innovation).

The decision process flows directly from our definition of progress. Which is:

progress – moving, over time, through a series of activities, to a more desirable state

Where progress seekers attempt to make progress through a series of activities. Implying there is a start decision to attempt progress. Followed by further decision points, conceptually when each activity completes, to continue/abandon the attempt.

Each decision is based on the seeker’s unique and phenomenological judgement of the levels of:

  • progress potential
  • progress achieved against expectations
  • lack of resource (a progress hurdle)

If the seeker believes that the potential and achieved progress are high enough, and the progress hurdle is low enough, they are likely to start/continue. Otherwise the seeker is more likely to not start. Or to abandon an attempt if they have already started.

The decision process points to value being related to progress and that it emerges over time. That progress decisions are unique to a seeker and made phenomenologically. And that a seeker’s lack of resource is a hurdle to progress.

Let’s look at when these decisions are made, what those decisions are, and, how it all fits together in the progress decision process.

When are decisions made?

Seeker make a decision to start a progress attempt. Followed by a series of decisions on whether to continue or abandon the attempt.

The natural decision points for aseeker to decide to continue or abandon a progress attempt are at the end of each activity making up the act of making progress

We anticipate that these follow-on decisions occur at the end of each activity. Regardless of the resource types the seeker is integrating/applying. This is due the fact that making progress is a series of activities.

As such, it intuitively makes sense to view seekers making decisions when each activity completes. Where by complete, we mean the activity either comes to a natural end or is terminated early. Though in practice, this level of granularity may turn out to be too low. Seekers may group activities together before making a decision.

Next we’ll explore just what these decisions entail.

What decision is made?

Intuitively a seeker’s decision about making progress should be based on their view of progress. And we can break that into two components:

  • the potential they see to make any remaining progress towards the progress sought and
  • any progress already made compared to their expectations

Which is precisely what we see in the progress decision. At each decision point the seeker judges progress potential and progress achieved. Which you might remember we’ve already defined these as views of progress.

type of progressdescription
soughtindividual progress seeker’s phenomenologically determined more desirable state
potentialphenomenological judgement by an individual seeker of the progress they believe can be made going forwards from a particular point in time
achievedphenomenological judgement by an individual seeker of the progress they have made by a particular point in time

also a cumulative state reached after the end of one or more activities.
Table 1: The three types of progress seen and evaluated by the progress seeker

I deliberately use the word judge rather than measure. Since progress is not so easy to objectively measure. But it is here that we get a hint that progress and value are related. And we’ll explore that more here.

Here, in the following diagram, is the overall judgement a seeker makes. Balancing views on progress and a progress hurdle we call lack of resource. This hurdle falls out of progress potential as we’ll shortly see.

In deciding to make progress the seeker determines amounts of progress and the height of the lack of their own resources (skills and competence) hurdle

The intention being that to start/continue a progress attempt a seeker uniquely and phenomenologically judges that at the current decision point:

  • progress potential is sufficiently high
  • achieved progress is sufficiently high
  • lack of resource progress hurdle is sufficiently low

Let’s look at those a little more.

Progress potential

progress potential – phenomenological judgement by an individual seeker of the progress they believe can be made going forwards from a particular point in time

The seeker needs to convince themselves that they can progress from where they are to their progress sought. Some seekers will look at the totality of progress left. Others the potential they see in the next step.

One challenge to seeing potential progress as being sufficiently high is the seeker lacking the resources needed to progress. We pull this out as a special consideration – a progress hurdle – rather than keep it included in progress potential. Doing so allows us to talk about potential progress being sufficiently high and the hurdle sufficiently low.

Progress achieved

progress achieved – phenomenological judgement, predominantly by an individual seeker but also separately by the helper, of the progress made by a particular point in time

But what does this word phenomenological mean?

Uniquely and Phenomenological determined

You’ll have noticed we talk often about things being determined uniquely and phenomenologically by the progress seeker. This comes from our underlying service dominant logic thinking. Which informs us:

Value is always uniquely and phenomenologically determined by the beneficiary

Foundation premise #10 of service dominant logic

And since we believe that value emerges as a seeker’s perspective of progress, we can really say:

(amount of) progress is always uniquely and phenomenologically determined by the progress seeker.

Uniquely just means that each and every seeker determines progress themselves.

But let’s discuss this word “phenomenological” for a moment. It’s a bit of a mouthful, not in common usage, which we inherit from our underlying service-dominant logic.


a) lived experience – the ”baggage” we bring from past interactions and attempts to make wider progress

b) living experience – how we’re feeling today, how we’re expecting to experiencing this attempt to make progress, how we are experiencing it,…

How can we interpret it? The best way I can think of is to say it is two things:

It’s a word that wraps up the pickiness, quirks, beliefs etc of progress seekers – why one seeker sees progress whilst another sees less, and why the same seeker may judge different progress, and make different progress decisions, on different days.

And each seeker has different lived and living experience. Hence why progress is determined uniquely and phenomenologically. Again, when we come to look at progress propositions our challenge becomes finding propositions sufficient seekers will engage with.

Have you seen supermarket self checkouts? The ones where you scan your items at a checkpoint and pay yourself? You know the ones – they often yell out “unexpected item in the baggage area”.

Chances are you have friends that swear by them and use the all the time for the convenience. And other friends that will never use them – annoyed that stores are trying to cut down employees. You, yourself, might avoid using them worried about the risk of wrong payment/accidental shoplifting being transferred to you. Except you might use them when you’re in a rush at lunchtime with just a couple of items.

In short, progress seekers are picky, awkward, complex, wonderful actors.

Lack of resource progress hurdle

We’ve talked about progress being the integration/application of resource. What happens if the seeker lacks resource(s) needed to progress? We call this the lack of resource progress hurdle. And when we look at pure progress, i.e., with no progress propositions in the picture, then we observe this is the only hurdle.

We call it a hurdle rather than a barrier. A barrier implies a block. Whereas lack of resource is a unique and phenomenological decision by progress seekers. Just like above with progress. And so some seekers will see it as a block. Others will attempt to progress regardless. Seekers decide if the hurdle is low enough.

And by resource we mean:

  • operand and operant resources of the seeker
  • knowledge/skill to plan activities involved in progressing

For the first point I mean typical operant resources a seeker has. Such as their knowledge and skills, as well as time. And, additionally, operand resources, i.e., goods/commodities, that the seeker can find/nature provides. This is restrictive, but we are constraining ourselves, just now, to a world without propositions (and so no training, education, manufactured goods).

typical seeker resources: knowledge, skills, time, list of activities to progress, any operand resources they can find/nature provides.

It also means an operant resource that we specifically pull out. the list of activities required to complete the progress – another operant resource. Though this is a very seeker dependent need. Some will not progress without details. Others will relish the challenge of working things out themselves.

Now we have all the background to introduce the progress decision process.

Progress decision process

Here then is the progress attempt decision process. And it’s strikingly similar to Rogers’ classic innovation adoption decision (from his book “Diffusion of Innovations”).

The progress attempt decision process

Where we can define the two decision moments – start and continue – as follows.

start decision

The progress seeker’s first decision is whether to start attempting to make progress or not. That boils down to whether they feel they:

  • can make enough progress
  • have the necessary resources to make progress.

So a seeker first judges their progress potential. Which we know is defined as

progress potential – phenomenological judgement by an individual seeker of the progress they believe can be made going forwards from a particular point in time

Ideally, from a progress seeker’s perspective, potential progress would match progress sought. However, we may find the progress seeker is willing to accept less potential progress and still start an attempt. In parallel the seeker judges if they lack any resource needed to make progress.

The progress seeker’s decision to start attempting to make progress

We see a seeker going through the top, green, channel in the process diagram if they decide to start making a progress attempt. Which means they see enough potential progress and feel they have sufficient resource. And so they attempt the first activity needed to progress.

However, if they see the progress potential is too low, or they feel they do not have enough resources, they may decide to reject making progress, i.e., do nothing. They go through the bottom, red, channel.

Though this “reject” decision may not be final. The seeker may see different potential in the future and then decide to start an attempt. Perhaps their context has shifted. Or they’ve revised their view of functional/non-functional progress they’re seeking. Or they could have lowered their view of how much potential progress is needed to start. It might even be the case that a lack of resource issue is resolved.

But let’s say the seeker has decided to start. Next, there will come a point where they to continue, or not.

continue decisions

As the progress seeker attempts to make progress, they will regularly make choices to continue or abandon their attempt.

At each decision point, they phenomenologically decide if there:

  • has been sufficient achieved progress – how far have they got
  • is sufficient potential progress remaining – can they still get to their desired state
  • are they lacking resource to continue

And, as we saw when understanding progress, the seeker may change their view progress sought as they try and progress (as a result of new information becoming available).

Here’s the continue part of the decision process.

The progress seeker’s decision to continue attempting to make progress

A negative determination would see them abandon the attempt. This is likely due to one of two paths:

  • disenchantment discontinuance. Where the seeker has decided not enough progress is being made and/or is likely to be made in the future. 
  • replacement discontinuance. This is where the seeker has decided to attempt making progress in a different way.

Wherea a positive determination sees the progress seeker continue their attempt of making progress until the next decision point, or progress sought is achieved.

As mentioned previously, these continuous decision points are most likely at the end of each activity in the process of making progress.

Relation to other work

To avoid confusion, we’re talking about a single attempt to create a process. So as not to be confused with Christensen’s ideas about big (first use) and small (second use) hires from his jobs to be done theory. However, we will return to this point when discussing the engagement decision process (for engaging progress propositions).

As we’ve noted it’s strikingly similar to Rogers’ classic innovation adoption decision (from his book “Diffusion of Innovations”). This gives us some solace because it is well known and understood. It also agrees with the viewpoint that an organization’s innovation should be nothing out of the ordinary.

Wrapping Up

Understanding progress is key to the progress economy (and therefore unlocking innovation, growth, and the circular economy). The decision-making process is an important part of that understanding. Including what factors contribute to this, and when does it occur?

Now we’ve seen a decision takes place prior to any attempt at progress. As well as repeatedly throughout the attempt. And those follow-on decisions are likely to occur at the conclusion of each activity in the process of progress.

These decision points are based on the seeker’s unique and phenomenological view of three variables. To start/continue, the progress potential and progress achieved must be sufficiently high. And the lack of resource progress hurdle needs to be sufficiently low.

The progress attempt decision process

This whole thinking is based on their being no help available to the seeker. Our service engagement decision process will build on this thinking to take account the availability of progress propositions.

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Let’s progress together through discussion…