Output vs Outcome: Importance and Differences

Max 8min read
Output vs Outcome

Have you ever had the impression that despite your company’s efforts, nothing is happening? It’s a frustrating situation that many businesses face, and it often comes down to output vs outcome.

Outputs are the tasks and deliverables you produce, while outcomes are the actual results you achieve. And the truth is that only a few companies focus solely on output without considering whether it leads to meaningful outcomes.

However, you need not worry. In this article, we will help you break out of that cycle. We’ll explore the key differences between output and outcome.

So if you’re ready to start seeing the real impact of your efforts, read on.

Why Is It Important to Distinguish Between Output and Outcome?

It is essential to explore why this distinction output vs outcome is critical to understanding the output vs outcome. Here are some reasons why it matters:

Outputs and Outcomes Have Different Meanings

Outputs and outcomes may sound similar, but they have distinct meanings. Outputs refer to the results of a specific activity or initiative. At the same time, outcomes are the overall impact or value created by those outputs. Understanding this difference is crucial for accurately measuring and evaluating initiatives.

Outputs Are Not Always an Indicator of Outcomes

Outputs are a proxy for outcomes, but this can be problematic. Increasing the number of outputs does not necessarily mean achieving the desired outcomes. 

For example, increasing the number of people attending a health education program is output. Still, it does not guarantee that the program was successful in achieving its goal of improving health outcomes for those individuals.

Outcomes Are More Difficult to Measure

Outcomes are often qualitative, making them more challenging to measure than outputs. While outputs are usually quantitative and can be easily measured, outcomes may require more subjective analysis.

Understanding Output vs Outcome Improves Clarity

By understanding the difference between output and outcome, businesses can achieve greater clarity in their measurement and evaluation processes. They can more accurately assess their initiatives’ effectiveness and ensure they achieve their goals and outcomes.


Output refers to the tangible result of a specific activity, such as a product, service, or another physical outcome you can achieve by working on a project. It communicates a team’s time, effort, and progress toward achieving the objective. 

According to Andy Grove, former Intel CEO and founder of the Objective and Key Results framework, outputs serve as a “measuring stick” for evaluating the success of an OKR and increasing productivity.

Examples of Output

Here are some examples of outputs in the context of Objectives and Key Results (OKR) in different fields:

  • Business: An output for a company could be the number of new customers acquired through a marketing campaign or the amount of revenue generated from a new product launch.
  • Education: An output in education could be the number of students who completed a course or program or the number of research papers published by a department.
  • Healthcare: In healthcare, an output could be the number of patients seen in a clinic or hospital, the number of successful surgeries performed, or the number of lives saved through a specific medical intervention.
  • Technology: In the technology industry, an output could be the number of software updates released or the number of new users who sign up for a service.
  • Nonprofit: An output in a nonprofit organization could be the number of volunteers recruited or the number of funds raised through a fundraising campaign.

Importance of Output

While the importance of outputs extends beyond short-term results, they do provide several benefits that make them valuable in any context:

  • Clarity: Outputs provide a clear and measurable target for teams to work towards, promoting clarity of purpose and direction.
  • Accountability: Outputs hold teams accountable for their work, clearly indicating progress towards goals and identifying areas for improvement
  • Resource allocation: Outputs help define the resources and skills needed to achieve objectives, allowing teams to allocate resources more effectively.
  • Performance evaluation: Outputs provide a tangible way to evaluate performance, helping teams and organizations assess progress and adjust as needed.
  • Decision-making: Outputs provide information to support decision-making, helping teams and organizations make informed choices about resource allocation, strategy, and direction.

Measurement of Output

Output typically gets measured as an index of product revenues, with adjustments for price changes. We exclude output sold to another business within the same industry or sector from the calculation to avoid double-counting.


Outcomes are closely tied to outputs, as they enable the creation of revenue-generating products or solutions. However, organizations often tend to focus solely on outputs and the technical requirements needed to achieve them, neglecting the underlying reasons for the project. 

This narrow focus can lead to a lack of attention to why the project is getting executed, which can affect the project’s success. 

Examples of Outcome

Here are some examples of outcomes in different fields:

  • Healthcare: Improved patient health and well-being, reduced hospital readmission rates, increased patient satisfaction, and improved clinical outcomes.
  • Education: Higher graduation rates, increased student achievement, improved learning outcomes, and increased access to education.
  • Business: Increased revenue, higher profits, improved customer satisfaction, increased market share, and improved brand recognition.
  • Environmental: Reduced carbon emissions, increased energy efficiency, improved air, and water quality, and increased conservation efforts.
  • Social Services: Reduced poverty, increased access to resources and support, improved social mobility, and increased community engagement.
  • Technology: Improved usability, increased reliability, enhanced security, increased efficiency, and improved user experience.

Importance of Outcome

Outcome measurement and understanding their significance are crucial in various fields such as healthcare, veterinary care, and nonprofit sectors.

Measuring Outcomes to Improve Quality of Care

Measuring outcomes that matter to patients is critical in ensuring quality in value-based care. This approach drives the adoption of best practices and improves patient outcomes, system performance, and professional development.

Quality Improvement Through Multidisciplinary Approach

A multidisciplinary approach to change delivery can improve patient outcomes, system performance, and professional development. Quality improvement is essential in driving the adoption of best practices.

The Significance of Measuring Outcomes in Nonprofit Organizations

Demonstrating solid outcomes is crucial in nonprofit organizations to secure funding and ensure program success.

Overall Importance of Outcome Measurement

Comprehending and measuring outcomes is vital for enhancing quality, driving the adoption of best practices, securing funding, and ensuring program success across multiple sectors.

Key Differences between Output and Outcome

The following table summarizes the differences between output vs outcome:

Differentiating ElementOutputOutcome
Time of AchievementAchieved immediately after implementing an activity or a project/programNot achieved right after the implementation of activities or projects/programs
Level of Performance or AchievementWhat you create at the end of a processThe level of performance or achievement that occurred because of the activity or programs
Refers toCompletion of a project/program’s activitiesAchievement of a project/program’s objectives
Term UsedFirst-level resultsSecond-level results
LinkageLinked to activitiesLinked to objectives
MeasurabilityEasy to measure, report, or validate; usually tangibleDifficult to measure or validate; usually intangible
PurposeMeans to endEnd results
Shows the Level of AchievementNoYes
RelationshipResults into outcomeResult of output
Direct ControlYes, within direct control of the program/program managersNo, not within direct control of the program/program managers
Control vs. InfluenceCan be controlled by the programCan only be influenced by the program
Reason for Designing a ProjectNoYes
Measure of EffectivenessNoYes
Client’s ValueDoes not address the value or impact of services for clientsSupposed to address the value of the services/activities
Measured inNumbers or quantitative dataQualitative data
Time TakenTakes less time to accomplishTakes more time to accomplish

Relationship Between Output and Outcome

Outputs and outcomes are closely related, with outputs serving as the means to achieve outcomes. Till now we have understood the differences between output vs outcome. Now it is time to look at how they are related.

Outputs refer to the actions or items that contribute to achieving a desired outcome, while outcomes are the results or impact that occurs due to an activity or project. 

Outputs are necessary but not sufficient on their own to achieve the desired outcome. The outcome evaluation measures the effectiveness of the output to achieve the desired outcome.

For example, if the outcome is to increase sales, the output could be launching a new marketing campaign. In this case, the new marketing campaign is the means to achieve the outcome of increased sales. 

Outputs are necessary to achieve outcomes, but they do not guarantee success on their own.

Understanding the relationship between output vs outcome is crucial in business and program evaluation. It ensures that the activities and resources align with the desired outcomes and that the outputs actually contribute to achieving the outcomes. 

With this understanding, organizations may invest resources in activities that produce the desired outcomes, leading to wasted resources and ineffective use of time and money.

Organizations can ensure they achieve their desired goals and objectives by understanding the relationship between output and outcome. 

They can use output and outcome evaluation to measure their programs’ effectiveness and efficiency, identify improvement areas, and make informed decisions about allocating their resources.

Applying Outcome-Based Thinking to Drive Success in Product Management

Outcome-based thinking is a popular approach in business management, especially product management.

It involves defining and prioritizing the desired outcomes a product or business seeks to achieve and aligning all activities and decisions toward achieving those outcomes. Here are some critical factors for the successful implementation of outcome-based thinking in product management:

Factors for Successful Implementation of Outcome-Based Thinking

Proper talent selection and engagement:

Businesses must hire and develop individuals with the necessary skills and expertise, To achieve desired outcomes. Additionally, employees’ talents should get applied to their specific responsibilities, and they should be engaged in the process of completing the desired outcomes.

Prioritizing research and development:

Businesses must prioritize R&D expenditures to adapt current offerings or innovate where opportunities exist to meet customer needs. It will help companies to understand customer workflows, analyze processes, and develop software solutions to help achieve desired results.

Prioritizing user trust as a desired outcome:

Product managers must prioritize user trust as a desired outcome since it is crucial to the success of a product. 

User trust can quickly turn advocates into detractors, so ensuring that all actions and decisions align to build a strong and lasting affinity for the product and brand is essential. It involves ensuring that the product is secure, reliable, and user-friendly.

By applying outcome-based thinking, businesses can drive success in product management and achieve their business goals. Here are some steps to apply outcome-based thinking in product management.

Applying Outcome-Based Thinking in Product Management

  • Identifying and prioritizing outcomes: The first step is identifying and prioritizing the most critical outcomes for the business. It will help companies to determine the focus of their activities and decision-making.
  • Aligning activities and decisions: Businesses must align all actions and decisions towards achieving those outcomes to achieve desired outcomes. It means understanding how processes affect outcomes and developing software solutions to help achieve desired results.


How can an organization balance Output and Outcome?

The balanced scorecard approach can help organizations balance outputs and outcomes by tracking several vital measures that collectively reflect four dimensions: financial, customer, internal business process, and learning and growth. Additionally, organizations can consider adopting approaches such as giving workers more control over their work to improve their health and well-being. Outputs refer to the method, and outcomes refer to the result, so organizations should aim to strike a balance between the two.

What is the role of stakeholders in defining and measuring Output and Outcome?

Stakeholders play a critical role in defining and measuring outputs and outcomes for an organization. They can help identify the key measures that reflect the organization’s goals and objectives and ensure they align with stakeholder expectations. Stakeholders can also provide feedback on the effectiveness of the outputs and outcomes and help the organization adjust its strategies accordingly.

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