Output is All That Matters

When I map processes, at my job or for clients, we start with the step-by-step actions.  Sort of, “first you do this, then you do the next thing.”  Sometimes, we argue a little about which action really comes next…  “It won’t work if you do X before Y.”

As soon as we capture all the step-by-steps, we move on to list all the process inputs.  These are like the ingredients in a recipe.  For most processes, inputs fall into a few categories:  people, equipment, supplies, information, maybe the specific method of doing things, or the environment in which the process lives.

After we understand the needed inputs, I ask this question, “What about the outputs?  What do we expect to get at each step of the process, and for the process overall?”  Usually, this is challenging.  Strangely, it’s easier to think about HOW to do the work – getting it right, getting it done – than it is to think about WHAT you are or aren’t conveying, and to whom.

But when it comes to achievement:  Output is the only thing that matters.

Let’s take a look at some examples of inputs and outputs, so you can see what I mean:



Nothing   happens until…




Nothing   happens until…




Nothing   happens until…




Nothing   happens until…

great ideas


products & services

Nothing   happens until…





The critical lesson of any output, is in the “out” part.  How many of us have had a great idea, only to see it implemented and marketed by someone else?   You may have been the first one who thought it would be great to use the web to post photos and random thoughts, but Mark Zuckerberg actually produced an output.

So here’s the second part:  Outputs are meaningless until they’re shared with the outside world.

If you have some great thoughts about how to improve your business, but you never send the email, chances are nothing will change.  If your team talks about the same things in every meeting, but no one completes an action item, your business may not grow as rapidly as you hoped.

When you look back at yesterday, or last week, or last year, can you identify the outputs?  The areas where something left your desk or office or conference room and traveled to someone else?   It’s easy to fall into the trap of measuring your life in terms of how many hours you work, or how much effort you put in.  But if you really want to succeed, focus your energy on “output”.    It will make all the difference.

Simple, but remarkable.

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