You have set up the OKR method and you have set the objectives of your OKRs. Now you’re looking to determine impactful key outcomes (KRs).
For this, there are three types of key results: input, output and outcome.

By focusing on the end goal rather than the means to achieve it, one avoids being distracted by meaningless actions. Unfortunately, our tendency to act quickly and seek solutions can lead us to consider the “how” as the ultimate goal.

The real question to ask is: What are we looking for?

Three types of key results Input, Output, Outcome

As you can see from this chart, it is essential to design OKRs as close as possible to the impact we have defined in the company’s strategy.

OKR input output outcome
The Project Logic Model, adapted from Kellogg Foundation

Good key results provide a clear understanding of what matters most. They allow the team to measure its progress. However, they do not dictate the specific steps that the team will have to follow. And most importantly, they do not manage the process in a micro-managerial way, but rather describe the desired results.

Let’s start with a simple example of OKR to illustrate the different types of KR:

Objective: Get our candidate elected.

Key Result 1: Knocking on 20,000 doors in the first 30 days of the campaign. (input)
Key Result 2: Send a brochure to 25,000 households in high-participation neighbourhoods to introduce our candidate. (input)
Key Result 3: Get 8,000 voting commitments for our candidate in the first 30 days. (Output)
Key Result 4: Our communication platform gets at least 55% approval from respondents. (Outcome)
Key Result 5: The campaign resulted in 65,000 votes for our candidate. (Outcome)

Here’s how they differ:
  • Input: it is a question of measuring the “how”, therefore the activities, that the team will undertake.
  • Output: The team measures here the result of the “how” implemented.
  • Outcome: Finally, we measure the impact on our target objective.

Input: the challenge to achieve to move forward

Key input outcomes are specific team tasks and activities that are necessary to achieve a goal. They are things that can be controlled, such as how many stores open, how updated a company website or how to reduce the weight of a manufactured component.

However, be careful not to transform all initiatives, tasks or actions into key input results. They must focus the energy of the team on a challenge that is essential to the success of the goal.
We now understand that the example: Key Result 1 “Knocking on 20,000 doors in the first 30 days of the campaign.” is an important step for the team.

The team needs to realise that “knocking on 20,000 doors in the first 30 days of the campaign” is important to move forward in the process. But there is no guarantee that this action will lead to the achievement of the objective.

The key input result is far from impact but represents a working hypothesis whose implementation seems essential to the team, and on which it focuses its energy.

Output: the measure of what has been achieved

Output is the result of a series of activities. This may include, for example, the achievement of performance criteria, the number of units produced, the attraction of a certain number of conference participants or the achievement of a target subscriber renewal rate, etc.

For example key result 3: Get 8,000 voting commitments for our candidate in the first 30 days.

Outcome: the key result of Result

Key outcome results go beyond the KRs of Inputs and Outputs to describe the desired end result itself.

For example key result 4: “The campaign results in 65,000 votes for our candidate.”.

This measure leaves the initiative and responsibility to the teams to achieve key results, which makes it its strength. In addition, their high level of measurement often requires cross-team collaboration to achieve these ambitious goals. It also creates a collaborative work dynamic and develops new skills within the team.


In conclusion

Key input outcomes are specific tasks and activities that are needed to achieve a goal. While key output-type results are the result of a series of activities. Key outcome results directly impact the desired end result itself.
It is advisable to let the team put down its OKRs and accompany it to promote a homogeneous distribution of the three types of key results. It will gain in taking initiative and responsibility. It is also important to challenge her to work on key outcome results in order to achieve the final impact. This requires an agility-oriented team manager posture, but this will be covered in another article.

To go further:

Strategy and OKR:

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