The Input Activity Output Outcome Model

I often circle back to the importance and principles of well-designed measurements. Here's a model that we use with our clients to get really specific on that structure and rigour.
Colleagues gather around a table, with the meeting leader gesturing at post it notes on a wall

By Chally Kacelnik

I often circle back to the importance and principles of well-designed measurements (see previously, for instance, A Measured Approach to Performance Measurement). That’s because it’s fiddly work that’s often done hamfistedly, with the result that many organisations have no real idea of how they are performing. It makes a world of difference to do this work well.

Here’s a model that we use with our clients to get really specific on that structure and rigour. It’s called the input activity output outcome framework.

TypeDefinition
Input  Resources utilised to conduct an activity 
Activity An action or collection of actions that are completed for a productive purpose 
Output  A quantifiable “thing” that is produced as a result of activity 
Outcome  The result of a collection of outputs; typically arises or makes an impact over a time frame of 1 or more years 

One feeds into the next. This model keeps organisations focused in turn on immediate practicalities, the medium term requirements, and the cumulative long term impact.

For example, if you’re running training, here’s how you could apply this framework:

Type of Measure Examples Useful for
Input Cost of training venue per month Budgeting
Activity No. of training programs per month Monitoring
Output No. of accredited participants per month Performance
Outcome Demonstrable shift in culture Strategy

It’s crucial to be clear on purpose: for what end are you measuring? If it’s to control costs, an input measure like actual versus budget may be appropriate, but that measure doesn’t capture whether something is necessarily adding value. Systems drive behaviour, so if you are setting measures, you need to be careful of unintended consequences. For example, a monthly quota for submitting WHS hazard reports (an activity measure) will not be sufficient by itself for identifying if people are actually becoming more aware of hazards (an outcome measure). You may well drive less mindful behaviour because you’ve incentivised handing in more forms.

A measure is a simply standardised unit used to assess the amount, size, degree, or volume of something. Don’t obfuscate to sound impressive or use whatever data you have to hand – make sure what you’re presenting is clear, useful, and targeted to what you’re trying to achieve. If it’s conceptually sophisticated, be prepared to justify it in terms that are easy to understand.

Most of all, keep it simple and quantifiable. If you design this work well, you’ll have the basis for designing your organisational future.

At LKS Quaero, we help clients effectively direct and monitor their work. If you’d like to know more, visit us at lksquaero.com or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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