Focus on Outcomes, NOT Outputs

If you have been reading about OKRs, you would almost certainly have noticed the buzz around the terms ‘outcome’ and ‘output’ and the need for creating Objectives in an outcome-focused manner, rather than output-focused. We ourselves have had many conversations over the past months about the difference in these terms.

The broad difference between the term Outcome and Output rely on the fact that while Outcomes are what the business wants or needs to achieve, Outputs are the actions that contribute to the outcome

An easy way to think of this is that outcomes are the results, and outputs are the activities that support the desired results.

So to summarize, Outcome is what really measures the impact of an Objective.

However, building outcome-focused objectives requires organizations & teams to shift from an activities-based mindset to an outcome-based one. Traditionally though (mostly on productivity grounds), outputs are often used as measurement tactic, even though they don’t necessarily lead to any impactful outcomes. As such, this shift to an outcome-based mindset takes significant effort. It also requires clear communication and understanding across all levels on how each activity affects the overall goals of the organization.

While not all objectives have to be outcome-focused, in many cases, the Objective will make clear what its outcome will be, if its key results are achieved. Crafting the objectives with an outcome in mind provides an additional element of focus, transparency, and alignment. says: “When a team can think through the right outcomes, they, in turn, have the ability to logically define the adjust the tactics to strategically reach them in light of what learning comes about.”

Bottom line: Don’t make your Key Result only about outputs. Have conversations, communicate with your team and clearly define the impact you want to achieve with your Objectives.

Using an OKR software like ZenOKR helps streamline the process of implementing the OKR methodology. If you are new to this methodology, create your free account with ZenOKR to start your OKR journey.

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