Focusing teams on the right goals by mapping outcomes

vasundhara parakh
5 min readSep 19, 2023

‌Product teams are often pulled in many directions. Overflowing backlogs, requests from stakeholders, and endless new feature ideas make it easy to lose focus. Stepping back and discussing the high-level impact the team wants to achieve is a great way to cut the background noise and concentrate on what matters.

When our team wanted to explore how we could increase customer satisfaction, we planned a workshop to map the impact we wanted to achieve and invited the whole team: engineers, product managers and designers. The workshop’s goal was to agree on the impact we wanted to make, and find a path to achieve it.‌

How we prepared

‌Inspired by Josh Seiden’s Outcomes Over Output, there were five important questions he outlined that we needed to answer to understand how to achieve the desired impact:

1. What was the value we wanted to create (the Impact)

2. Which customer behaviours we wanted to change (the Outcome)

3. Who are these customers we’re targeting (the Actors)

4. What solutions would lead to behaviour change (the Output)

5. How would we know we succeeded (the Experiments)

We added a sixth step as we wanted to understand and agree our success metrics for any experiments we identified.

The workshop was divided into two 2 hour sessions over 2 days. I shared research insights in advance to help everyone gain a deeper understanding of our users and their problems. I also included the research in the workshop’s collaborative space for the team to refer to during the workshop. Research included interview findings, quantitative metrics, survey results, and Usabilla feedback. This was really helpful as we could connect our qualitative and quantitative data when thinking about outcomes. ‌

The workshop

‌During the workshop I walked the team through the process, explaining each step before I started to align everyone. Steps we followed were

Step 1: Choose impact

We discussed high-level problem areas in our product which were also related to our business goals. We agreed on the impact we wanted to achieve: increasing customer satisfaction, measured by our CSAT score.

Step 2: Identify actors

Before thinking which customer behaviours we wanted to change, we needed to identify our customers and stakeholders. We discussed which customers and other internal teams could help us achieve our desired impact. One example of actors for our team is customers with smart meters.

‌Step 3: Define outcomes

Josh Seiden defines an outcome as a change in human behaviour that drives business results”. Our next step was to identify the behaviour change we wanted to see in our customers based on the research, for example: ’be able to quickly understand how much energy they’ve used in a day without calling customer services’.

‌Step 4: Define outputs

Next, we discussed solutions that could create the desired change in behaviour, for example: ‘add something visually to show our customers their home’s daily energy use like a tab feature’.

Step 5: Design experiments

Then we explored what experiments we could run to see how effective each output is, for example: we could observe how many people engage with a new Daily Energy Use feature, versus how many who don’t.

‌Step 6: Agree success criteria

Lastly, we defined how we would know if an experiment was successful, for example: the Daily Energy Use feature would be successful if we observe a 70% increase in engagement and a 15% reduction in complaints.

What we learnt

‌We found the workshop to be useful as it brought our team together with shared understanding, removed the distraction of daily work, and focused on the impact we wanted to have on our customers.

Through this deep-dive into our research, we could make sense of what we’d learned, making it easy to identify what outcomes we wanted to work on. It allowed us to balance our user’s needs with our business objectives. And by identifying the gaps in our knowledge, we uncovered areas that required further research.

We also learnt that we didn’t yet have all the tools and know-how we needed to conduct product experiments, giving the team an opportunity to learn new skills in how to set up and run them.

The exercise helped us to prioritise the work needed to reach our desired CSAT score. We had created a list of outcomes we wanted to achieve, and could see a clear path to realise and test it. We also added these outcomes to our product roadmap and have seen a positive increase in our CSAT score since. This process is complementary to our team’s agile ways of working where the development process is continuous. ‌

In short with this exercise we were able to:

  1. Align our work with the business objectives
  2. Feed research insights into our process
  3. Prioritise new features and backlog against the outcomes we wanted to achieve
  4. Understand which metrics to track based on the outcomes
  5. Find the gap in our knowledge and start building on it ‌

What challenged us

The workshop was intense and required a lot of time and energy to run. Things were made harder because everyone was working remotely, and we ran longer than we’d planned.

On reflection, we should have spread things over three days to allow more time to think about each step. As it was a new process for us, we needed time to understand each step in more detail and we should have kept extra time aside for discussions after we finished each step.

It is a deep thinking process, and it is important to go over steps a few times with the team members, and always remind them the definitions and examples of ‘output‘ and ‘outcome.‘ ‌
What I learnt
‌New processes take patience and practice to make them successful. We plan to repeat this process regularly, and the more we do it, the more we can unlock the technique’s full potential. I can’t wait!‌