ISSUE 20: Achieving outcomes and getting past an output mentality

#20 - Achieving outcomes and getting past an output mentality
Patty Currier,
Barry Burke and Laura Bottomley
 Many policy makers and performance organizations say they
want to achieve outcomes, but when discussing results, they are
more interested in outputs. This may be because of an
operational vs research environment (e.g. NASA), inability to
measure appropriately, lack of resources, last of understanding
of the difference, and misconceptions of what an outcome is.
 Separate but related discussions include the difference between
education and outreach, inspiration vs education, and how to
harness and repurpose the energy of those that are unknowingly
developing/influencing policy and making decisions that divert
attention away from education (Outcome!) into outreach and
 These misunderstandings, conflicts, confusion impacts policy,
funding decisions, programmatic direction, etc
 Many of us live in an environment with constraints on
 cost (or cost per participant): high quality interventions tend
to have higher cost/participant, making that investment less
attractive in an environment where outcome and output is not
well understood
 timeline to implementation: many don’t have the luxury of
waiting years for research results; organizations are impatient
for “return” or outcomes to be achieved; outcomes take
longer than outputs; NASA exists in an environment of
management turnover and one-year budget cycles. What can
be done to make achievement of outcomes (even outputs)
“practical” or “operational” in such environments
 measurement: individual students can’t be tracked, outcomes
are difficult to measure (as opposed to outputs), it takes a
long to time to effect a change and measure it, lack of
understanding on confounding variables, (and lack of
understanding of such variables), and my timeline is already
too long, etc.
 need to seek mechanisms that allow an operational stakeholder
to provide inputs/resources into the community, address the
needs, etc., so that they add value and impact (within the
constraints mentioned above, especially if you want funding to
continue). From the discussion of a previous group, perhaps the
identification of a “wish list” or “menu” of possible
contributions can be developed, offered, implemented for valueadd, instead of wasted effort
 the idea of time, resource, evaluation, policy, etc. constraints
and resolution may be an overlaid theme on any interventions or
strategies considered for engineering education (sounds like
engineering, doesn’t it???)
 Unique partnerships may help reduce timelines, reduce costs,
improve value/impact. This may include
assessments/evaluations that leverage similar projects, funding
from different sources that address similar issues, etc.
 Any strategies, suggestions, initiatives, etc. need to be
achievable in the real world that requires demonstrated “results”
(hopefully impact/outcome and less output), cost, and time