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Process Improvement, Process Management, Project Management

Outcomes and Outputs: you do understand the difference don’t you?

I received an e-mail recently, asking for permission to reproduce one of my articles on the difference between Outcomes and Outputs.  This was originally written in the context of process management and improvement, but it has just as much relevance to project management where the language might easily be changed to Benefits and Deliverables.

Customers usually have expectations about both the process and the output (how they get what they want, and what they actually get).  That’s where Outcomes fit in.

  • Processes deliver OUTPUTS.  In other words, what pops out of the end of a process is an output.
  • An OUTCOME is a level of performance, or achievement.  It may be associated with the process, or the output.  Outcomes imply quantification of performance.

If you are trying to improve your organisation’s performance, you need to be able to describe the Outcomes you want to achieve (or have to achieve if a Stakeholder such as the Government is driving you). You need to be able to express these quantitatively, so you can track progress over time. Then, you can decide which of your organisation’s processes will impact on each Outcome. At that point, you will know what the Outputs are that also impact on the Outcome.

So, by starting with desired organisational outcomes, you can make clear linkages to key processes. For each of those processes, you can then decide what its contribution must be towards the organisational outcomes. Hey presto, high-level business objectives deployed down into real processes, operated by real people.

You can download the full article here.

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