What is meant by outcomes vs output?
To increase the ratio of outcomes / output is a crucial but counter-intuitive goal of product managers (PMs). To maximize customer outcomes seems straight forward, but many balk at aiming to minimize feature outputs. The key to understanding is that from the PM's perspective, the amount of feature output the development team can produce is fixed, and so the goal of the PM becomes finding the smallest version of every feature that fulfills the customer outcomes.
The terms output and outcomes
Feature outputs are the features, bug fixes, and improvements that the development team delivers.
Customer outcomes are the actual benefits the users get from the features that are developed.
How product managers maximize outcomes over output
PMs should work across the product management process to maximize the customer outcomes that are achieved with the feature output that the team develops. The ways that product managers can maximize the ratio differs across the stages, for example:
- In Discovery, PMs can make sure to make sure that solutions solve real customer problems (e.g. by working with opportunity-solution-trees), and by making sure that the team will actually be able develop solutions that work (by identifying Four Big Risks, assessing them and validating them.
- In Definition, PMs can clarify their thinking in PRDs to make sure everybody is on the same page, thereby avoiding expensive and frustrating rework.
- In Prioritization, PMs can prioritize the features that will have the most impact (using different prioritization frameworks, like RICE, ICE, Weighted scoring and the Kano model).
- In Refinement, PMs can do user story mapping to telling the smallest combined story that results in the desired customer outcome.