How to Implement Output Thinking in Your Business

I was listening to a podcast recently and was introduced to the idea of Output Thinking and I really liked the message and thought it was something I should share.

There are tons of business books out there and many simply rehash old ideas or are too high level to be of much day-to-day use but this one struck me as something I could put into immediate action.

The promise of the book seemed to cover a lot of ground on topics I frequently wish I had better solutions for, including:

  • Hire better.
  • Reduce frustrations with employees.
  • Help your team work more efficiently.
  • Improve performance reviews.
  • Delegate more effectively.
  • Run fewer but more efficient meetings.
  • Have more time so you can do the kind of work you love to do.
  • Live where you want and manage remotely.

I think these are things just about every business owner can relate to and it’s something we had been thinking about anyway but this gave us a framework for the concepts we have been trying to put in place.

The idea is to put measurable metrics around what each person does in the business. Of course that doesn’t sound like a new idea, but the scope of it is different and much more wide-ranging than what people normally think of when they say things should be measurable.

The benefit is that you can more clearly explain what you want to an employee and the employee has a much clearer picture of what you consider success for each of the things you ask them to do.

Without this what often happens is the owner or manager might think an employee is underperforming while that same person thinks they are doing a great job. When it comes time for a review they are shocked to learn they need improvement or aren’t getting a bonus. Of course, this is disappointing for everyone and not a great outcome.

With a clearly spelled-out job description, however, it becomes much less likely that this is going to happen.

The author advocates putting specifics on as many things as possible so each function is clear and both parties know what the other means.

For example, a typical job description for a retail store might include the phrase “provide excellent customer service” but that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. If the description said:

  • Answer phone calls within one ring.
  • Greet every person who comes through the door with a verbal acknowledgment and smile.
  • Ask every customer if they need help with anything.
  • Don’t use a cell phone while on the sales floor.
  • Don’t chew gum.
  • Always be neatly dressed in the company-approved uniform while on the clock.
  • For any customer with two or more packages to carry, offer to assist them in carrying items to their car.

That may seem like a lot of detail, but we can both agree that you and the employee would always be able to tell if they were “providing great customer service” using the list but just the phrase is very vague.

It seems like a lot of work to do this, but it’s not if you break it down and follow these steps:

I think the first and best place to start with this is in job descriptions because it gives you a very specific template for how you can measure the success of someone you’ve hired and also lets them know what you consider important and how you are measuring their success.

Take your current job description (you do have one, right?) for your most common position and read through it. In each place where there is room to add a specific goal, value, metric, or other measurable outcome you want to have them achieve, add it in. You can rewrite for clarity afterward if needed but be as specific as possible for each thing you want done.

Once you have the job description you can use it for hiring (make your job ads specific for what you are looking for) and for training (how do they do the things you’ve said need to be done).

As you get into the training you may discover other places you want to add procedures for more specific directions on how to do things or what specific outputs you want. Any time you can replace a general goal or desired output with a specific number or threshold or other trackable metric you should do so.

Whether you have employees or not, you can also use this same kind of thinking for writing goals for yourself for the business and then set specific daily or weekly targets to hit in order to achieve the longer-term goals.

Essentially, for every action or task that happens in the business, think about the output from that task that you want to see and put an exact value on it or at least a minimum (or maximum if it’s something you’re trying to minimize) allowable amount. Then measure and see how it’s going and adjust as necessary. The more detailed and precise you can be, the better it is for being able to actually achieve that goal or at least see how close you came.

This is a book I wish I had seen sooner and one of the very few where as soon as I put it down, I started actually using the ideas it contained to improve my business. Let me know if it does the same for you or if you have other books you’ve read that were as immediately practical and applicable – I’d love to put them on my reading list!

Spread the word:

Similar Posts