Output or Outcome OKRs? How to Leverage Both for Success

Output or Outcome OKRs

Are you confused about what OKR Outcomes are and how they differ from measuring outputs?

We’ll delve into the connection between OKRs and Outcomes, explore different types of Outcomes, and illuminate the key differences between Outcomes and Outputs.

You’ll discover why outcome-focused objectives are crucial for success. If this sounds familiar, we’ve provided an example of how OKR Outcomes would benefit your business!

Output or Outcome OKRs

What are OKR Outcomes?

OKR Outcomes determine the desired impact you aim to accomplish through your OKRs. They go beyond simply finishing tasks and instead focus on the concrete outcomes your efforts will generate.

Think of them as the goals you want to accomplish, while OKR Outputs are the strategies you’ll use to achieve them. Outcomes are centered around the broader perspective – a happier customer base, a more reputable brand image, or enhanced business expansion. 

Outputs are the precise steps you take to attain those outcomes, such as implementing a customer feedback program or boosting brand mentions on social media.

Different types of Key Results that you can create

Understanding the difference between Inputs, Outputs, and Outcomes is crucial for setting effective OKRs. Here’s a breakdown to help you classify your Key Results

  1. Inputs: These are the resources you invest in a project or initiative. They represent the “what goes in” of your OKRs. Examples include staff hours dedicated to a project, a marketing budget allocated for a campaign, and employee training.
  2. Outputs: These are the activities you complete or the things you produce. They represent the “what gets done” of your OKRs. For instance, the number of social media posts published, lines of code written for a new software feature, and reports generated by a team.
  3. Outcomes: These are the measurable results or impacts achieved by your efforts. They represent the “what gets achieved” of your OKRs. For example, Increase website traffic by 20%, reduce customer support ticket resolution time by 1 day and improve customer satisfaction score by 5 points.

How are OKRs related to Outcomes?

Imagine OKRs as a GPS guiding you to a specific location. That location is your end goal, the ultimate achievement you’re aiming for. 

Your OKRs serve as the turn-by-turn directions leading you toward your destination. Here’s an example: Let’s say a tech company wants to improve customer satisfaction (end goal). 

Their objective could be to “Increase customer satisfaction ratings by 20% within the next six months.” The key results might include metrics like reducing response time or resolving customer complaints more efficiently. 

By hitting these OKRs, the tech company is making progress toward its end goal of enhanced customer satisfaction. OKRs help you break down your goals into manageable steps, making them quantifiable and attainable.

What are the types of OKR Outcomes?

The best approach often involves a combination of these three outcomes. You want to balance aspirational goals with achievable targets while penetrating a culture of continuous learning

1. Aspirational Outcomes

Think of these as your “dream big” goals. They’re ambitious and long-term, pushing your team to think outside the box. They might not be achievable immediately, but they spark creativity and set a high bar. 

For example, imagine you’re a clothing company. An aspirational outcome could be to become the undisputed leader sustainably within the next five years. This sets a lofty goal, driving your team to develop innovative, eco-friendly practices.

2. Committed Outcomes

These are your achievable goals for a specific timeframe (like a quarter or year). They represent what you absolutely want to deliver. 

Think of them as promises you make to yourselves and your stakeholders. For instance, Increase customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) by 10% within the next quarter. This specific target keeps everyone focused on improving the customer experience.

3.  Learning Outcomes

Here’s where you focus on acquiring new knowledge or skills. It’s about trying new things and learning from them, even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you expected. 

This further cultivates a growth mindset and helps you find innovative solutions. For instance, Let’s say you’re a marketing team. 

Pilot a new social media advertising campaign within the next 3 months to test its effectiveness and gain insights for future campaigns. This outcome prioritizes learning from a new approach, potentially leading to better marketing strategies.

What sets OKR Outcomes apart from Output?

It’s a common question. Understanding the distinction is key to setting powerful OKRs.

Output OKRs

Imagine you’re building a house. Here’s how OKR Outputs play a role

  1. Actionable steps: Outputs are the “how” you achieve your goals. They’re not vague ideas but concrete steps. For example, an output for building a foundation could be “pour 10 cubic meters of concrete.”
  2. A means to an end: Outputs are the building blocks that ultimately lead to achieving your desired outcome. While completing outputs is essential, it doesn’t guarantee a perfect house. Unexpected issues might arise.
  3. Measurable (Sometimes): Some outputs can be easily quantified, like “install 20 windows.” But others, like “improve communication on the construction site,” might be more qualitative.
  4. Direct influence: Outputs are within your control! You can delegate, adjust, or even change them completely if needed (e.g., switching building materials).
  5. Not a guarantee: Just because you complete all the building tasks (outputs), you might still have a leaky roof (not achieving the outcome of a functional house).
  6. Adaptable based on outcomes: If you discover a problem during construction (outcome not achieved), you might need to adjust your outputs (e.g., adding waterproofing to prevent leaks).

Outcome OKRs

Imagine you’re having a vegetable garden. Here’s how OKR Outcomes play their role

  1. More than benchmarks: Outcomes are more than just reaching specific targets. They represent the impact of your work. Imagine a thriving vegetable garden, not just a list of planted seeds (outputs).
  2. Goals and not sub-objectives: Outcomes are your primary goals within an objective. Think of them as the delicious vegetables you want to grow, not secondary goals like planting flowers (which could be a separate objective).
  3. Tangible and measurable: While some outcomes might have qualitative aspects (e.g., “improved customer experience”), the best outcomes are quantifiable whenever possible (e.g., “increase customer satisfaction score by 10%”). This allows you to track progress clearly.
  4. Influenced by outputs and not directly controlled: Outputs are your actions that influence your outcomes (planting seeds, watering, weeding). You can’t directly control the outcome (weather, pests), but your outputs significantly impact it.
  5. Success story: Outcomes tell the success story of your objective. When you achieve your desired outcome, it’s a clear sign that your efforts paid off!
  6. Adaptable based on progress: outcomes can be adjusted based on your progress. For example, if your vegetables aren’t thriving, you might need to adjust your watering schedule (outputs) but keep the overall goal (outcome) of harvesting delicious vegetables.

How do Outputs and Outcomes contribute to OKRs?

While Outputs are the specific actions your team takes (the “how”), Outcomes are the measurable results you want to achieve (the “why”). Think of them as the answers to the question: “What impact are we striving to make?” Here’s how they contribute to powerful OKRs

  1. Direction and focus: Outcomes provide a clear north star for your team. They ensure everyone is working towards the same overarching goal, not just completing tasks for the sake of it.
  2. Motivation and engagement: Knowing the desired outcome keeps your team motivated. They see the bigger picture and understand how their work contributes to progress.
  3. Measurable success: Outcomes allow you to track your progress and celebrate achievements. Did you achieve the increased customer satisfaction score you set out for? That’s a clear sign your OKRs are working!
  4. Adaptability and learning: Outcomes act as a performance gauge. You can revisit your outputs and adjust your approach if you’re not achieving your desired outcomes.

Here’s an example to illustrate

Objective: Enhance customer experience (the “what” you want to achieve).

Outcome: Increase customer satisfaction score by 10% within the next quarter (the measurable impact).

Outputs: Your team’s specific actions would be to achieve the outcome, like launching a new customer feedback program or improving response times on support tickets.

What do Output Key Results mean, and why are they crucial?

Output KRs capture the specific activities or deliverables your team accomplishes to achieve your goals. They act as the building blocks for achieving the desired outcomes. Here’s why they’re crucial:

1. Measure progress and identify bottlenecks

Imagine you’re leading a marketing campaign intending to increase brand awareness. An output Key Result could be: “Publish 10 high-quality blog posts per month for the next quarter.” 

This output is measurable – you can track the number of published posts. By monitoring this metric, you can see if your team is on track and identify any roadblocks, such as writer’s block or resource constraints. 

This might hinder your progress toward reaching your target audience and ultimately boosting brand awareness (the desired outcome).

2. Penetrate transparency and alignment

Clear output Key Results ensure everyone on your team understands the tasks and deliverables contributing to the bigger picture. This transparency encourages a sense of ownership and accountability. 

In your marketing campaign example, everyone involved—writers, editors, and social media managers—knows their role in producing the blog posts, keeping the team aligned, and working together towards the common goal.

3. Inform adjustments and improvements

Output Key Results provide valuable data points throughout your OKR cycle. Let’s say you consistently meet your target of publishing 10 blog posts monthly, but website traffic remains stagnant. 

This might indicate a need to adjust your content strategy or target audience. By analyzing your outputs alongside your desired outcomes, you can continuously refine your approach and ensure your efforts drive the results you seek.

How do Outcome-focused Objectives naturally enhance the feedback process?

Imagine driving at night with only your headlights on. You can see what’s before you but not the bigger picture. 

Outcome-focused Objectives are like turning on your high beams. They illuminate the entire journey, making feedback a natural and powerful tool for course correction. 

Here’s how Outcome-focused objectives would naturally enhance the feedback process:

1. Clear direction for feedback 

Vague goals like “improve customer service” make it difficult to provide specific feedback. With outcome-focused Objectives like “increase customer satisfaction score by 10% within the next 6 months,” feedback can directly target areas impacting that score. 4. 

For example, if the score dips due to long wait times, you can provide feedback on streamlining call center processes.

2. Data-driven insights

Outcome-focused Objectives provide measurable benchmarks. Regularly tracking progress allows you to identify areas exceeding expectations or falling short. 

This data becomes the foundation for targeted feedback conversations. For example, if your website traffic increases but conversion rates remain low, feedback can focus on optimizing your website for sales or lead generation.

3. Continuous improvement

Knowing your destination (the outcome) allows you to adjust your course along the way. Outcome-focused Objectives make feedback an ongoing dialogue, not a one-time event. 

By incorporating feedback and adjusting through tools like OKR software, you ensure your team is constantly iterating and improving its approach to achieving the desired outcome.

Why are outcome-focused objectives important?

By understanding the power of outcome-focused Objectives, you can empower your teams to achieve greater success in any situation. They typically focus on:

1. Optimizing existing practices or products

  • Sharpen your aim: Imagine tuning a blurry picture. Objectives that focus on outcomes help you see what “good” looks like. They define the impact you want your existing practices or products to have, allowing you to refine them for maximum effectiveness.
  • Measure what matters: Instead of just tracking activities (e.g., “complete X reports”), outcome-focused Objectives let you measure the real impact (e.g.,- “increase customer satisfaction by Y%”). This helps you identify what’s working and what needs improvement.

2. Building a new system

  • Clear destination: Building a new system can feel overwhelming. Outcome-focused Objectives act as your roadmap. They define the specific problem you’re solving or the value you’re creating, ensuring the entire system is built with a clear purpose.
  • Adaptability: The world is constantly changing. Outcome-focused Objectives allow you to be flexible. Even if the “how” of achieving your outcome changes, you stay focused on the desired result, making adjustments as needed.

3. Defining stages of development

  • Milestone markers: Imagine climbing a mountain. Outcome-focused Objectives are like base camps. They break down your long-term goals into smaller, achievable milestones. This keeps your team motivated and focused, showing progress towards the ultimate outcome.
  • Prioritization power: Not everything can be done at once. Outcome-focused Objectives help you prioritize tasks. You can focus on activities directly contributing to achieving your desired outcomes, maximizing your resources and time.

What is an Ideal Illustration of OKR Outcomes?

Let’s imagine you run a fitness center. Vague goals like “get more members” won’t tell you much. However, strong OKR Outcomes provide a clear picture of success.

Here’s an example:

Objective: Increase member engagement and retention (This is what you want to achieve)

Outcome 1: Increase average monthly gym visits per member by 15% within the next 6 months (A measurable result showing increased engagement).

Outcome 2: Reduce member churn rate by 10% within the next year (This measures retention by showing how many members stay enrolled).

This example clearly defines the desired outcome (increased engagement and retention) and translates it into two measurable results: more frequent gym visits and lower member- churn. 

By tracking these outcomes, you can see if your fitness programs, promotions, or facilities are working to keep members motivated and returning for more.

This is just one example, but it highlights the power of OKR Outcomes. They act as a compass, guiding your efforts toward achieving real, measurable results that contribute to your business goals.


When utilized efficiently, Outcome-based goals become potent instruments for attaining tangible outcomes and accomplishing your most ambitious objectives.

Feeling overwhelmed by crafting effective OKRs and Outcomes? We offer personalized OKR consulting services to help you design, implement, and track impactful OKRs.

Schedule a consultation to discuss how we can help you take your OKRs to the next level.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is OKR Outcomes?

OKR outcomes are the measurable results achieved from setting and pursuing Objectives and Key Results, helping teams track progress and efficiently achieve organizational goals.

2. What is the difference between OKR and outcome?

OKRs are the goals and metrics set to guide actions, while outcomes are the actual results achieved from pursuing those goals and metrics.

3. What is an example of OKR outcome and output?

An example of an OKR outcome could be achieving a 20% increase in sales revenue, while an example of output could be launching a new marketing campaign.

4. Should OKRs be outcome-based?

Yes, OKRs should be outcome-based to ensure a focus on achieving measurable results rather than just completing tasks.

5. What is the key difference between OKR outputs and outcomes?

The key difference is that OKR outputs are the actions or deliverables produced, while outcomes are the actual results achieved from those actions or deliverables.

author img

Gaurav Sabharwal


Gaurav is the CEO of JOP (Joy of Performing), an OKR and high-performance enabling platform. With almost two decades of experience in building businesses, he knows what it takes to enable high performance within a team and engage them in the business. He supports organizations globally by becoming their growth partner and helping them build high-performing teams by tackling issues like lack of focus, unclear goals, unaligned teams, lack of funding, no continuous improvement framework, etc. He is a Certified OKR Coach and loves to share helpful resources and address common organizational challenges to help drive team performance. Read More

Author Bio

You may also like