Focus on outcomes over outputs

When starting an initiative, it’s important to focus on the desired outcome before jumping to solutions. By focusing on the problem to be solved, we can ensure all ideas are considered and that we are all working towards a common goal.

Most organisations are idea driven: a problem is recognised by an individual, that same person has an idea to resolve it, and after some means of prioritisation the idea is executed.

This model can work great for small teams who are just getting started on their big idea because everyone is consistently on the same page and speaking the same language. But, as teams grow, issues arise. Idea-driven organisations often notice that the outputs of their teams (i.e., new features) do not achieve the outcomes they intended and that seemingly simple ideas end up taking a long time to deliver due to unclear scope. This looks like:

My advice to organisations is to focus more on outcomes rather than outputs. Outputs are the tangibles generated by your team, such as features, products and tickets. Outcomes represent the impact of your outputs. The key is to always keep in mind why you are doing something—what outcome are you trying to achieve?

Output-centric mindset

“This month, we shipped a new product ordering user interface. We also fixed four bugs and conducted six customer interviews”

Outcome-centric mindset

"This month, revenue grew by 10%, driven by the adoption of our new interface which allows customers to more easily order new stock from their suppliers. Fourteen support cases have been resolved thanks to the bugs we’ve fixed, and through some customer interviews, we’ve learned how we’ll be tackling our next initiative.

Tips for product managers

When starting an initiative, it's important to focus on the desired outcome before jumping to solutions.
When starting an initiative, it's important to focus on the desired outcome before jumping to solutions.

By focusing on outcomes rather than outputs, not only do organisations more often achieve the outcomes they’re hoping for, they also find improved alignment within and between teams.

27 August, 2020

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