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Are You Too Focused on Outcomes?

I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with teams trying to get them to focus more on outcomes rather than output. This is a solid way of improving a team, and I will continue to do that, but one thing I’ve realised recently is focusing on outcomes is not always the best way to improve what a team delivers.

There are a few of ways I am starting to think of this, that aren’t necessarily anything to do with work:

“You are what you eat”

“Garbage in, garbage out”

“You can’t polish a turd”

The input a team has is just as important as the outcome in many ways. The better a team is, the better they are at turning the inputs into something valuable. However if we improve the quality of the inputs then the team should automatically produce better outcomes right? Seems like a logical step. Nobody can polish a turd, but a good team will learn how to roll it in glitter.

Of course the danger of spending time improving the inputs, is just that, it takes time. We don’t want to start moving towards big up front planning again, 435 page Business Requirements Documents that is somebodies idea of good quality input. A balance has to be found somewhere.

If you are struggling to get better outcomes with the teams, maybe ‘look a little left’ to use a Kanban related phrase, and see if you can improve your inputs. Is the Product Owner or Analysts getting good quality inputs? Is there room for improvement without it turning into big up front design? How do you help with the process of refining work before it hits the team? Can you look even further left again?