An outcome directly measures the work of the ‘business’ you’re in. As a result, effective outcome measurement can help you manage your business.
So how do you do it?
Proximity is key; outcomes measures need to be proximal to the intervention (service) provided. If they are, and an outcome measure is heading in the right direction, you know why. If it’s not it’s also relatively easy to diagnose as proximity to the point of intervention, and understanding of the intervention, means the number of variables that could be challenging the result is limited
A good program has a clearly identified problem it is trying to solve. What’s more it has identified a very specific malleable change point at which to intervene. Therefore the problem, delivered solution and outcome all align very tightly. There’s no question as to whether the outcome is measuring something unrelated to the issue identified.
Proximity also ensures that adjustments can be made in short cycles. A good performance indicator is available frequently (at least yearly, preferably more often) to allow constant modulation. An annual indicator is almost a lag indicator as it will take another year (and budget cycle) to know whether a service is delivering what its paid to deliver. Data that is available more frequently than this will allow modulation to occur within a budget cycle.
An outcome is simply the result of your intervention. There may be other terms for this – impact, output etc. But at the end of the day, of you can’t measure the effectiveness of your intervention, then you’re not running your business – its running you.
So don’t get caught up on the jargon, get caught up on knowing your programs are targeting the right intervention points, in the right way, and you can measure the result.