Output or outcome?
I did appreciate the following quote from Alberto Gonzales, US Attorney General who when defending the work of his department said:
“Good, if you look at the output”
Regardless of what you think of Mr Gonzales and his department’s performance, I find it interesting the use of the word output – it has sneaked in from management-by-objective speak… but output is usually a poor measure for performance, as it represents the products or services produced. It is just like..
A press officer judges her performance by the number of press releases she writes
A training office judges his performance by the number of people that attends his training sessions
What is far more important are outcomes – the effects and changes that are a result of the outputs:
A press officer should judge her performance by how her press activities change the knowledge and attitudes of audiences
A training officer should judge his performance by how the people he trains uses what they have learnt
Like Mr Gonzales, most people prefer to look at outputs to judge performance as they are much easier to control and monitor compared to outcomes, which I’ve written about previously. But increasingly activities are assessed on what they achieve (outcome) rather than what they produce (output).