Build an Impact-Focused Culture: Outcomes over Outputs

Raj Nair

Senior Engineering Manager at Google



"It's not uncommon to see a lot of opinions when there are smart people in a room. All those opinions probably sound great, but at a startup you're always short of time and resources. You need to ruthlessly prioritize what you need to work on."

Actions taken

The best way to do this is to focus on the "why." Encourage people to present their opinions, but be sure to explain the "why" behind those opinions. The "whys" will help you understand what is important for the customer and prioritize the work. At Paxos, we use techniques such as Hypothesis Driven Development and 5 whys to great effect. It's extremely important that you build these mechanisms and embed them in your culture. They will pay off significantly as the organization grows to democratize the decision-making process.

"To help engineers delve into the 'why,' make business impact the key driver behind any engineering-related decision point. Engineers love to be at the forefront of technology and gravitate towards bleeding-edge gizmos to solve the next problem. Engineering leaders should focus on solving hard business problems rather than nit-picking on technology choices. This sends a strong signal that business impact is more important than technical 'superiority.'"

To create a culture that encourages the team to focus on business impact, growth and promotions should be the result of solving problems that have a direct correlation to business impact. It is important to demonstrate that strong impact doesn't just come from working on the "new shiny object." Work involving performance upgrades, decreasing latency etc. may not be sexy, but they have massive customer impact.

Lessons learned

Outputs are what you produce or deliver, but outputs may or may not result in meaningful or desired change, such as a change in customer behavior or change in product engagement. Outcomes are a more appropriate measure of meaningful results or the value we create. Outputs are "what" we produce where as Outcomes address "why" we do something. Build a culture of quantifying the business outcomes to create a sense of purpose in the work produced.

Source: How to Build a Great Engineering Team

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Raj Nair

Senior Engineering Manager at Google

Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsCareer Growth

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