Output vs Outcome

I’ve made a quick (non-scientific) survey of Danish blog-posts related to Agile and job-postings from high-tech companies HQ’ed in Denmark, searching for Output vs Outcome. Focus is still predominantly on Project and Agile teams providing efficient and continuous delivery of Output; not Outcome

Please let me quote Jeff Patton:

The biggest missing value statement in the Agile Manifesto is:

Successful outcomes over efficient deliveryJeff Patton

Why this obsession on Output (delivery) over Outcome?

I see two primary reasons for organizations measuring Team success on Output and not on Outcome.

The business model is based on delivering Output to others

Being a Service / Solution provider (internally or externally) you’re awarded for your ability to deliver Output to your stakeholders according to agreements (read: the Project Triangle). This is where you’ll find Agile / Project teams with mercenaries being told what to build and deliver. These teams can of course not be held accountable for the Outcome of their deliverables for the simple reason that the teams were told what solution to build.

The obsession to deliver Output in the most effective and efficient way is only natural here. The success criteria is not the ability to Discover/ Innovate the best solution to a (hard) business / customer problem. It is to implement and deliver the solution / features given to the teams like a Lean Machine.

A Project mindset in a Product company

As described earlier, the best and most successful high-tech Product companies have developed a strong Outcome-focused Product Culture around Product Teams – with a missionary mindset.

Getting to this is definitely hard – especially if your organization has a traditional Project Mindset with internal stakeholders pushing project / feature roadmaps when developing new products. Your natural focus will be on Output.


Having focus and measuring success on Output is not “wrong” or “bad”. Your business model might be based exactly on the ability to deliver Output making it perfectly valid to optimize the “delivery machine” using e.g., the latest and greatest in Agile frameworks.

Do you happen to have a high-tech Product company with a strong tradition for Projects (measured on Output), you might want to learn from the best when it comes to Innovation: Develop a strong Product Culture with Product Teams focused on and accountable for Outcome. The stronger your “Output-focused” roots are, the tougher it is to make such a transition.