by Leon Rosenshein

Outputs vs. Outcomes

Right now we're in the middle of Q1 planning and the 2020 perf review cycle. One forward looking, and one backward looking. One is team/org/company related and one is personal. So what do they have to do with each other, and more interestingly, how do they relate to "outputs vs. outcomes"?

First, they're temporally connected. perf always follows planning. And a big part of this year's perf review is based on the planning from last year. Next year's perf review will be guided by the planning we do now and over the next year. Because a big part of your perf review is around how well you met your (sometimes changing) goals.

Not just a review against those goals, but the impact of those goals. This year more than previous, the connection between perf reviews and impact is clear. Because impact is much more than hitting your dates, although that's still important. Impact is not working on everything, it's finishing the right things. Those things that help your team, your org, and the company move faster. Not just faster, but faster in the right direction. That's having impact

And impact is where the difference between outputs and outcomes matters. Finishing a task, fixing a bug, and writing a design doc are all outputs. But they're not impacts. Don't get me wrong. Outputs are crucial. without outputs what are you spending your time on? But it's how those outputs roll up to outcomes that matters. It's how the outcome of those outputs impact your partner teams and customers.

So when you work on Q1 planning, it's not just what you could do, it's what you should do. What makes the most difference and has the most impact. And that rolls right into next year's perf review. Which means being thoughtful about planning not only helps the team/org/company, the outcome directly impacts you and your career.

So don't just do it for the team, do it for yourself.