We’re in the era of digital transformation and AI where traditional management is quickly becoming obsolete. As today’s market environment is more dynamic than ever, it’s not viable anymore to focus only on the work without understanding what impact it has on the business.
This is where outcomes management comes into play, which is about measuring what you achieve as a direct consequence of the efforts you put in. In other words, does the output you produce influence the outcomes you want to reach?
To answer this question at Businessmap, we use a management hub that gives you full information about your outcomes and work activities in a central place – the Initiatives and Outcomes dashboard.
Quick Overview of the Initiatives and Outcomes Dashboard
For those of you who might not be familiar, in Businessmap, every work initiative lives within boards and workspaces. Within those work initiatives, you can create outcomes and enable OKRs. To do that, remember that the work initiative could be your Objective, while the outcomes serve as Key Results.
The Initiatives and Outcomes dashboard then acts as a central management hub, pulling data from selected boards. Its goal is to give you an overview of the status of both outcomes (key results) and work initiatives (objectives), so you can make data-driven decisions.
The dashboard is a great resource for implementing OKRs because you can directly compare the outcomes vs work progress. However, in the early stages of their OKR implementation, a lot of our customers wonder how they can interpret the data from the dashboard and, most importantly, what they should do with it.
So, we’ve decided to go over a few common use cases below. Before you move forward, we strongly encourage you to first get to know how to work with the dashboard.
3 Use Cases for Outcome-Based Project Management
To structure the content, we will present it in the form of several scenarios. Keep in mind that the tips below are subjective, and they could mean different things in your environment.
Let’s get started.
1. Both My Outcomes Progress and Work Progress Are At Risk/Off Track
A basic scenario is when the status of your outcomes and work initiatives are both falling behind schedule. For example, imagine that you want to become a thought leader in project management, which is your top-level initiative and objective. To measure your progress, you’ve created several outcomes (key results) and child work initiatives/projects.
In the Initiatives and Outcomes dashboard, you can see that the Outcomes progress of the entire objective is At Risk, which happens because one of its corresponding key results is At Risk, too.
On the other hand, the work progress of the objective is Off Track due to a deviation above 15% from its expected progress.
Looking at the work progress of the lower-level projects, you can see that “Create 5 Industry-Specific Whitepapers” is only 8% done, while the target date is the 5th of February.
Meaning and Possible Actions
Having both the outcomes and work progress At Risk/Off Track is a signal that you’ve not been getting enough work done to yield positive results. Our advice would be to dig into the teams responsible for the projects with low work progress that are part of the main initiative/objective.
Perhaps there is something blocking their work, or they lack enough capacity. A possible solution would be to temporarily allocate more capacity to the project with the lowest work progress and closest target date.
2. My Outcomes Progress Is At Risk/Off Track, but the Work Progress Is On Track/Trending
One of the most common scenarios is to have a large chunk of the output ready without seeing significant results from your efforts. This leaves a lot of managers wondering if they’re doing the right things.
In our example, let’s imagine that an important objective for the Marketing department is to spend their budgets more efficiently. To achieve this, they want to decrease paid advertising costs while increasing conversion rates from existing campaigns.
As you can see from the Initiatives and Outcomes dashboard, the work progress of the main Objective stands at 56%, and its child projects are also moving very well. However, the outcomes are Off Track, and they’re projected to miss the target result by a large margin until the deadline is reached.
Meaning and Possible Actions
Before rushing to conclude that you’ve been working on the wrong things, let’s illustrate what we’ve seen from our experience.
1. In the example above, it’s possible that it takes time to see results from the work you’ve done so far. This could mean that you need to extend your target date or that you’ve created too ambitious outcomes/key results.
Take the “Create a New Landing Page for Each of Our Personas” project.
It’s reasonable to have to wait for some time until you see the results of your efforts. In this case, our advice would be to temporarily park the project in a queue stage. You can do this by creating an “Experiments” stage on your board where you can track the results. To lower the risk of wasted work, we advise you to take this action before the entire project is complete as a way of proving whether you’re moving in the right direction.
2. Another possibility here is that you may need to add more scope to the projects.
Think of it as generating new ideas.
Perhaps the direction is right, but you need to take a slightly different approach to start seeing the intended results. In this scenario, we advise you to hold an OKRs review during some of your weekly meetings and gather your team’s opinion on the matter.
3. My Outcomes Progress Is On Track/Trending with Minimal Efforts
Sometimes, you can have satisfying results when only a small portion of the work is done.
For example, looking at the Initiatives and Outcomes dashboard, the “Expand Geographic Presence to 2 More Continents” has a Trending OKR status while only 10% of the work is done, and you’re behind schedule.
It’s evident from the dashboard that one of the corresponding child projects for the main objective is also behind schedule.
Meaning and Possible Actions
This usually means that some initial efforts contributed to those positive outcomes. It’s also possible that you didn’t set ambitious enough goals, but based on your target date for achieving the outcomes/key results, it could be too early to tell for sure.
If that occurs in your environment, revisit your work initiatives together with your team and discuss whether you should create new targets for your outcomes/key results. Logically, the more output you produce, the better results you’re expected to get.
However, we strongly advise you to keep an eye on the “Outcomes projection” column. If it’s At Risk or Off Track, it means eventually, you will be in danger of falling behind your OKR status. So, keep that as a sign to not let your foot off the gas and focus on producing more output to ensure you reach your goals.
Get Started with Outcome-Based Management
While those are just a few basic situations we’ve seen from our practice, we hope that they can be a stepping stone to understanding what you can do with the data from the Initiatives and Outcomes dashboard. The important takeaway is to always dig deeper into the work that you do and understand how it brings you closer to your goals.
At the end of the day, delivering work faster is only a fraction of what agility is about. Instead, the greater benefit comes from accelerating your decision-making, so you can seize opportunities quicker and gain a competitive advantage by doing the right things at the right time.
Product Marketing Manager
Nick is a strategic thinker, passionate about marketing, sales enablement, project management and productivity. An avid sports and Star Wars fan, he spends most of his free time in the gym or the playing field.