About a month ago I was in Denver attending a 2-day class put on by Jeff Patton and Jeff Gothelf. One of their segments talked about the importance of learning to measure Outcomes instead of Outputs. While I'd heard this message before, and could see the supremacy of it, I'd nevertheless struggled with how to put it into practice. So during one of the breaks I confessed this deficiency to Jeff Gothelf, essentially asking... "how do I get better at thinking at identifying Outcomes"? As luck would have it, his colleague Joshua Seiden had just published Outcomes over Output. What a nice, little gem. It's a short, easy read.
Chapter 1 sets up the rest of the book. For me, the most insightful point was this middle ground, between Outputs and Impacts, called Outcomes. Too many of us, in the IT world, have been taught to identify and measure Outputs. While they are relatively easy to measure, and lend themselves to quantitative analysis, they are also of dubious value, and can be mis-used in the wrong hands. At the other end of the spectrum are the things that VP's tend to measure -- Impacts. Examples include revenue, profit, etc. These are course measures, and tend to be "lagging" indicators. So these "impact" measures tend not to work so well -- at the team level. That's where this middle ground of "Outcomes" can be useful. What makes them even more appealing is that, Outcomes -- when identified correctly -- can be "leading" indicators. That is, instead of looking out the rear-view mirror, instead we are focused on what lies ahead.
I found Chapter 2 "Using Outcomes" to be the most valuable. It touches on a number of important things to think about: Leading vs. Lagging Indicators, stating Hypotheses as part of a series of experiments and Tracking Progress with Outcomes, and even using Outcomes as part of a Objectives and Key Results (OKR) planning approach.
Anyone who practices as a Scrum Master or Product Owner would benefit from reading this little gem. After reading it, if you are wondering to yourself... gee, these Outcomes are not as precise as traditional IT Output metrics, allow me to remind you of John Maynard Keynes famous quote... "better to be roughly right, than precisely wrong"!