This week I realized that I mention repeatedly that you should focus on outcomes over output, but I haven’t necessarily explained why.
In order to rectify that, I took a look at the benefits and pitfalls of focusing on outcomes rather than outputs. I’ll readily admit that the pitfalls I mentioned are really excuses I hear for people claiming they can’t switch to an outcome based approach. So if you’ve run into some true pitfalls of focusing on outcome, I’d love to hear your experiences.
I also wanted to share what others had to say about outcomes over outputs. So this week’s resources provide some further explanations of why you should focus on outcomes, as well as a couple of examples of organizations that have tried it and what they experienced.
Why Outcomes Over Outputs?
John Cutler asks “why should teams create outcome/mission based roadmaps, converge on solutions later, focus on the problem-to-solve, experiment, limit planning inventories, avoid chasing story-point velocity, start together, limit handoffs, and [fifty other things]?” His answer: “better near, mid, and long-term business/customer/user/societal outcomes and a sense of impact” and then explains why that’s not quite as easy as it sounds.
Defining value: the most ambiguous word in product development
The concept of outcome is an attempt to define value in more meaningful terms than “we delivered value because we shipped a [thing].” Jeff Gothelf takes a stab at describing a few different kinds of value and explains that “meaningful changes in customer behaviour — i.e., outcomes — are the only way to know if we’ve delivered value.”
Output vs. Outcome—Measuring Business Success with Agile
The executives that are undergoing large-scale agile adoptions are interested in knowing how best to measure the success of their efforts. Ken Rubin suggests that they use outcome measures rather than measures of output. In this post he explains the difference between the various measures that he might use for his agile training and coaching business, Innolution. Then he discusses how output and outcome measures relate to popular agile success measures.
Measure outcomes not outputs
Chris Thelwell was asked the question “What are the key metrics you use to track your design’s effectiveness?” His answer provides a great example of how a team can look past output measurements to measure effectiveness based on outcomes.
You Need to Manage Digital Projects for Outcomes, Not Outputs
Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden in this excerpt from their book Sense and Respond shared how the Taproot foundation used outcomes to manage their project to build a new digital service. This is an excellent example of how you can define success in terms of outcomes and manage to that definition to deliver value earlier than you originally thought.