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    Outputs are not outcomes

    Doing the work is not the same as getting things done.

    Doing the work is an output – going to meetings, writing code, reviewing code, responding on Slack – getting things done is an outcome – shipping features, moving metrics, making money.

    Your company pays for outputs, but it expects outcomes.

    The problem is that you can control your outputs and you cannot control your outcomes. You can write the best code of your life and none of it matters if it's for a feature users don't like.

    Or you can write the shittiest code and it turns into Minecraft, a worldwide success. If you didn't click the link, the tldr is that Notch writes famously awful code.

    Bill Walsh, a legendary NHL coach, writes in The Score Takes Care of Itself that if you focus on doing good work and being a high functioning organization or team, the trophies will come. The game score and the trophies (outcomes) are trailing indicators of doing good work.

    It's a good book and you should read it. Even if you know nothing about american football like I don't.

    Similarly in Thinking in Bets Annie Duke talks about how you can't judge decisions by their outcomes. You can make a good bet (70% chance of success) and still fail. Or you can make a bad bet (30% chance of success) and still succeed.

    What gives?

    Your outputs are leading indicators. You have to show up every day and do the work. The only way to ship the big feature by end of quarter is to make small steps every day.

    Your outcomes are trailing indicators. You have to put your work in context of a goal to know if it's working. You can work yourself to the bone every day but the big feature won't ship unless you work on that feature.

    Sounds silly when I put it that way but I spent much of 2023 running like a maniac and getting ever slower. Once I hired a coach he said "Bro you're running a lot. Are you trying to get faster marathon times or is your goal just to waste time? Coz if you wanna run fast, you gotta go to the track and run fast. No amount of street miles will get you there"

    I was putting in the work (outputs) but the results (outcomes) didn't come. Because the work was wrong.


    Published on April 26th, 2024 in Mindset, Productivity

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