Shifting the Focus: From Output Delivery to Business Outcomes

This insight showcases the repercussions of prioritising output delivery over business outcomes and offers insight into why a shift in mindset is necessary for organisations to thrive.

9 July 2023

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The Focus on Output Delivery over Business Outcomes

In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, many organisations are grappling with a common challenge: a disconnect between the focus on delivery of outputs and the achievement of business outcomes.

This disparity hinders the organisation's ability to capture value realisation and customer impacts.

The prevailing culture often favours execution management over hypothesis validation and business value realisation, making it difficult to foster incremental value release and experimentation.

Having seen this many times with clients, we wanted to showcase the repercussions of prioritising output delivery over business outcomes and offer our insight into why a shift in mindset is necessary for organisations to thrive.

Frontline disconnection to Business Outcomes

Below the C-suite and department heads, employees typically become more engrossed in the execution of tasks and projects than with outcomes.

While leadership tends to speak in terms of long-term outcomes and future states, frontline teams are primarily concerned with meeting immediate deliverables.

The disconnect arises from an increasing majority of leadership teams communicating objectives through operating metrics like EBITDA, which are far removed from the daily activities of frontline workers.

This kind of imbalance leaves employees feeling disconnected from the high-impact goals set at the top, creating a sense of detachment and diminishing their understanding of how their work contributes to the wider business outcomes.

The Challenge of Deliverables over Business Outcomes-

Many change programs and initiatives are centred around delivering specific outputs or solutions, reinforcing the perception that the completion of tasks equates to achieving business outcomes.

However, this narrow focus on deliverables fails to capture the true impact of initiatives on the organisation.

Companies often fail to determine whether the delivered outputs actually generated the desired benefits or contributed towards business outcomes.

This is often due to the fact that senior management break down the outcomes into deliverables for the rest of the organisation to execute, and fail to communicate the outcomes that employees are expected to deliver for the organisation.

Traditional programs often operate on long time horizons and there is rarely a mechanism in place to track whether the intended outcomes are being delivered.

Businesses focus on tracking whether outputs are delivered on time and on budget, which further distances employees from the outcomes they’re expected to achieve.

The Need for Value Realisation

We’ve also identified that organisations we work with find it challenging to measure the impact of their initiatives.

Leaders are driven by a desire for speed and more deliverables, and thus frequently overlook whether these deliverables are creating business or customer value.

We go and sit down with the C-suite, we ask them questions, and what is it they say? “We want to go faster! We want more stuff, faster!”.

Part of the reason they want that is because they can't measure the impact of what they have. So what is their natural response?

“If we're not getting the outcomes we're looking for, it must be because we're not fast enough.”

But actually, it's not delivery time, or delivery speed or what it is they're doing that presents the problems, but the fact that they aren’t adapting the deliverables to maximise the value they deliver.

So, instead of emphasising the speed of delivery, organisations should prioritise understanding and measuring the value generated at regular intervals.

All of a sudden, providing quarterly updates on the value released by the organisation allows everyone to understand the purpose of their work and maximise the impact.

Shifting the Mindset: Business Outcomes Focus

The fundamental problem lies in the bias ingrained from the start, where the solution itself is considered the answer.

When fixated on deliverables, organisations fail to articulate the impact they intend to make or the desired change in state.

For example, to execute on an idea, we wrap governance over it, in order to have confidence that we're going to deliver it at pace.

What we then end up doing is creating statements of work, functional requirements and test scripts, all of which direct focus on the work, not the outcome.

We believe a crucial shift is needed to move away from a contractual mindset and adopt a hypothesis-driven approach.

One approach that we’ve had success with in organisations, both large and small, is Objectives & Key Results (OKRs).

OKRs encourage an outcome-oriented culture, whereby organisations propose hypotheses rather than creating rigid contracts.

This shift in mindset and culture allows for more flexibility and acknowledges that outcomes cannot always be predetermined.

Download our Full Guide to Delivering Measurable Value at Pace for more insights.

Mike Horwath

About the author

Mike Horwath

Mike is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of 1ovmany. He is also the Co-Author of The OKR Method a Strategy & OKR Expert and at times an Executive Business Transformation Coach.

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