How Donuts & Cause and Effect Will Help You Achieve Greater Success

How Donuts & Cause and Effect Will Help You Achieve Greater Success

“I had to eat the donut, it told me to…”

We make choices everyday – to get out of bed or sleep-in longer; to eat healthily or listen to which food talks to you loudest. I’ll also reveal the best-selling donut later.. and surprisingly why.

I’ve been asked by many people how to create benefit maps and specifically about contribution lines. In this article I’ll also share 3 things to help you create benefit maps, challenge other maps and create low risk and lean plans.

Three names to remember are: Necessary, Sufficient & Contributory.

To understand what I mean by them let’s go through each quickly, using how happy donuts may make you feel as an example. Think about donuts as you read through the following.

1. NECESSARY: things on my shopping list that are NECESSARY to be happy. I always remember these.
2. SUFFICIENT: some things I can do without, but to be 100% happy I need these to feel SUFFICIENT and happy. Sometimes I miss them off my shopping list as I get close to 100% with other things anyway.
3. CONTRIBUTORY: I don’t really need these but they add something extra – they are CONTRIBUTORY to my happiness. I’d still be happy without them though.

Let’s look at how these 3 help with creating benefit maps.

In a previous article I shared 4 modelling styles. These model styles all showed relationships that we believe that one thing (e.g. eating a donut) contributes to a benefit being delivered (e.g. feeling happy). Here the donut is the Enabler, eating it is the Change and happiness is the Benefit. This is a cause and effect relationship.

On a model, arrows or links are used to show cause and effect relationships, adding them encourages questions. Questions like ‘are the benefits really needed?’ and ‘what is really needed to cause them?’

Not many people would disagree that eating a donut contributes to short-term happiness. Donuts are one thing but

less obvious are cause and effect relationships in projects, programs, portfolios & organizations. In complex situations it can be hard to know if models and plans have everything that is necessary and sufficient to deliver the benefits.

This is where you can use the 3 types of causality to create, challenge and maintain complete and lean benefit map relationships.

Relationships are a really powerful part of a benefits model*

Why are they so powerful? If everything has a cause then the benefits we want delivered (effect) need to be caused by something (cause). ‘Causality’ is a name of the relationship between cause and effect. It’s the causality that is powerful to understand. Understand it and you can see if your plans are fit for purpose. To help you use these three in practice, let’s look a bit closer.

Cause and effect contributions - closer look


There are things necessary to get a benefit, for example:

– A key device is necessary to start a car.

– Fuel is necessary to get power from a car engine.

– Skilled people are necessary for a new process to be performed efficiently.

Without them it’s simple, you won’t get the benefits. When quickly pulling together a benefits map I find you can quickly get 80% of what is necessary. Then take a step back and ask ‘are we missing something?’

Will they be sufficient enough for each benefit to be delivered? Go through each benefit and relationships to check… If you don’t check this then you could be in with a big and nasty surprise later.

If the cause and effect story doesn’t quite add up then we need to look at what else is needed. What changes and enablers are needed to ensure we have all that is sufficient.


Extra checks are needed after adding everything we believe is necessary to deliver the benefits. Do we have all the enablers and changes sufficient for the benefits to be delivered? Have we missed anything when adding to the cause and effect relationships?

The result may be adding extra changes, enablers and initiatives. Existing changes, enablers and initiatives may also need to be changed or removed.

This will likely result in things added/changed that require extra cost, resources etc. I believe in adding all that is needed to deliver benefits with low risk and then to challenge costs, resources etc.

You can review and remove/reduce later when you can judge what risks will be acceptable, how cost and other constraints need accommodating. Ensure quality first, then reduce the cost of quality.

STEP 1: Have what is necessary and sufficient to deliver benefits.

STEP 2: Then look to reduce cost, effort, time etc.

…..this process reduces risk and can also significantly reduce cost.”


So far we’ve included things needed to get the benefits delivered. Now there are some added and optional extras. These help contribute to benefit delivery and can lower risk. If things like a branded cup/mug with a project logo on wasn’t distributed to users would it really cause the benefits to not be delivered?

Use these 3 things to help create and challenge benefit maps, and develop low risk and lean plans.

Three great questions to ask that are part of the Benefit Delivery Formula. I’ll build more on these contributions in later posts – exceedingly powerful stuff!

Ah yes, back to the donuts. The bestselling Krispy Krème donut is the original glazed.
As part of a BBC TV programme they found that although people like sweet food, and like fatty food it’s food that is both sweet and fatty that is LOVED and craved. The original glazed donut is pretty close to 50% fat and 50% sugar. For the record, donuts are contributory in my life.

*Results Chain technique even has contributions as a fourth element of a model – Outcomes, Initiatives, Assumptions and Contributions.

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