Haupz Blog

... still a totally disordered mix

Output and Outcome in Goal Setting

2024-03-09 — Michael Haupt

What is output, what is outcome? The difference is maybe a bit subtle at first, but of fundamental importance, and makes a lot of sense once you “get it”.

When setting goals, one will like to describe them as “things achieved”, and will write down items such as “implement this feature”, “update that library”, “migrate yon product to another infrastructure”, and so forth. These make sense, right?

Only that they’re not really achievements. They’re activities that are completed. Boxes ticked. “Things done”, rather than “things achieved”. The achievements are the things one would answer when asked “to what end do you do this?”

Things done are output - they have no value of their own. Things achieved are outcome - they have value.

A plain example: the lightbulb in your home office room is broken. You replace it so that you don’t have to work in the dark. The replacement is the activity, the output. Not having to work in the dark is the achievement, the outcome.

One should formulate goals in terms of outcome - it’s usually better to express them in terms of the value they add. Knowing that value and the scale on which it lies has the extra benefit of yielding a better measurement for success than “done / not done”.

So if you catch yourself formulating goals as completable activities, ask yourself: To what end am I doing this? What value do I hope to add?

Tags: work