For most of us, it seems pretty simple: when we ship the product or launch the service. But we need to take a step back and consider what “done” really means.Most teams in business work to create a defined output. But just because we’ve finished making a thing doesn’t mean that thing is going to create economic value for us. If we want to talk about success, we need to talk about outcomes, not just outputs. And as the world continues to digitize and almost every product and service becomes more driven by (or at least integrated with) software, this need grows even stronger.For example, we may ask a vendor to create a website for us. Our goal might be to sell more of our products online. The vendor can make the website, deliver it on time and on budget, and even make it beautiful to look at and easy to use, but it may not achieve our goal, which is to sell more of our products online.
The website is the output. The project may be “done.” But if the outcome — selling more products — hasn’t been achieved, then we have not been successful.
Most companies manage projects in terms of outputs, not outcomes. This means that most companies are settling for “done” rather than doing the hard work of targeting success.