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Outcome-Based Goals Rather Than Output-Based

Matt Miller

VP Product Development at Flatiron School

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Problem

When I started working at Managed by Q, I began looking for opportunities to add value. After a few weeks, I saw an opportunity in terms of our quarterly planning. The way in which our product and engineering teams were planning was out of sync with the rest of the business. It felt to our teams like we just had a laundry list of features to deliver, and there was very little understanding of how this fit in with the bigger direction of the company. I saw an opportunity to be better aligned and to orient the team towards objectives that were meaningful to the business.

Actions taken

I realized that we needed to have some good inputs in terms of the long-term objectives of the business. I worked with our product team to collect input from stakeholders and synthesize the mountains of customer research we had been collecting.

I then worked with our head of product to crystallize our direction:, what was going to be important twelve months from then, and what was going to be important six months from then. We were then able to float a number of candidate problem spaces and opportunities that we could pursue over the following quarter. We validated these with stakeholders and held a prioritization exercise that brought them into the process, but framed the exercise as "input" into the final prioritisation, which we would come out of a final pass with the executive team.

We then showed this plan to each of our product and engineering teams, and worked with them to come up with metrics that would capture success. What ended up coming out of this whole process were quarterly objectives that were much more outcome-oriented than output-oriented. Rather than listing features, we had big metrics that were meaningful to the business and much more motivating for our teams to work towards.

We've now had the chance to iterate on this process a couple of times. One of the things we found the first time around was that we were too aggressive in what we felt we could achieve, and we ended up not achieving the numbers we were hoping for. We've now refined this process, so our goals are aggressive but attainable. It was important in this situation not to be punitive with the teams. Most recently, we've gone from four objectives to two and have put more focus on those two goals. It's still a work in progress, but I think it's been widely seen as a good alignment exercise across the business.

Lessons learned

This took some lobbying across the business, as we had to convince people. I did this by including them in the process (through stakeholder interviews with our product team, as well as a voting exercise) and providing regular updates. The end result was much greater alignment across the organization, and much better visibility and buy-in from our stakeholders.

Being outcome-oriented rather than output-oriented has also been extremely motivating for our team. The more you can have everybody marching to the same tune and working towards the same goals, the better off your company will be, the better collaboration will be, and the more motivated your teams will be.


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Matt Miller

VP Product Development at Flatiron School


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