I was involved in a research effort where we explored industry “best practices” in achieving “Outcome Focused Performance.” In a nutshell, we were trying to discover how the best organizations subjugate what they do to the Outcome (with a capital O) that they hoped to achieve.
One of the first issues we had to grapple with, however, was our task. We were tasked initially to look at this with the title “Performance Driven Outcomes. (PDO)” I was convinced that the phrase was wrong. It wasn’t a simple disagreement of semantics. It was a fundamental way of viewing the problem. It seemed to me that the PDO approach focused on what you do, and that the outcomes derive from that. If we let our performance drive the outcomes we achieve, we will have high marks but may not ever be successful.
At the time, I wrote (in discussing the DoD):
…we see clearly why we have this disconnect. The politicians and the media are looking for outcomes, and we are actively measuring and providing outputs. Congress wants to read about enemy forces overtaken and a war won. We want to talk about sorties flown, numbers of bombs dropped, and parts avail-able on the shelf.
This is, of course, not a problem limited to DoD. It’s a problem that faces every organization (and dare I say it, even our personal lives.) The problem is that often we use surrogates for the outcomes (dollars spent, dollars earned, customers served, students enrolled) and we don’t focus on the Outcome.
Generally, the outcome tends to be amorphous, and thus harder to nail down. That doesn’t mean we SHOULDN’T nail it down–just that it is more work. For instance, Nike is conducting an overall review/restructuring of their operations, and apparently they have the “outcome” in sight:
“In light of the current economic climate, it is more essential than ever to sharpen our focus on the consumer to maximize opportunities for product innovation and brand management in the marketplace,” he said. “The decision to reduce our workforce is a difficult one, but it will put our business in the strongest position possible to continue to deliver long-term profitability and growth.”
Of course, the devil is in the details–specifically how they operationally define “focus on the consumer.” In fact, if you read carefully the quote, you will read that they are focused on the customer to “maximize opportunities for product innovation and brand management.” Do you think they will “get it right?”
I am actively seeking your thoughts on this. specifically in three areas:
1. What do you see as the difference between these two phrases (or do you even see a difference?)
2. Does your organization focus on the “Outcome” or are they distracted by measuring outputs?
3. Do you think in a time of economic crisis it is more, or less, important to focus on “Outcomes?”