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Understanding the origins of outcome based thinking, the deeper techniques that lie behind it and how you can improve outcome thinking, definition and delivery in your organisation

The input-output-outcome model is used extensively in the UK public sector. The model has attractive simplicity. It is a model that allows a provider of funds, such as central government departments, to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the services of the organisations they fund. It is a model that many struggle to apply effectively.

The model can be found in UK central government bodies and external assessors such as the Audit Commission and European Court of Auditors . It is regarded as good practice for most public sector front line service providers ranging from city councils and parts of the NHS to emergency services and tax collection.

Inputs, Outputs, Outcomes a simplistic view.

Does it help organisations manage outcomes?

Given its pervasive use, you would think it would be well understood and easy to use; that it would help front line service providers serve their communities and improve their services. You would think the model would help front line organisations explain their services to their auditors and funders. It does not!

Executives, Performance Managers and Managers with responsibility for delivering change are using the approach. They are trying to justify funding or expenditure, explain what they do to their auditors and regulators, or wanting to improve services and deliver change for their community. Wherever they sit, they are struggling to exploit this apparently simple model of inputs -outputs-outcomes. Instead of helping, this model is more likely to cause confusion and consternation.

The problem is not lack of clarity over what they want to achieve

They are very clear what they want to deliver and how: that is not the problem. The problem is that the model does not help them explain their services. It does not help them manage the delivery of their services. It does not help them improve the lives of their communities.


More importantly, what can you do about it? If you have been struggling, this paper will help you. This paper will explain why this apparently simple model, is so difficult to apply. It will help you exploit the model and hopefully make your life simpler.

Attractive simplicity, hides deeper, richer, thinking

The approach seems to have an attractive simplicity. Tell us what your inputs, outputs and outcomes are. They will show us your efficiency (the ratio of inputs to outputs) and your effectiveness (the ratio of output to outcomes). The inputs provide a view of economy. For this reason, in the UK, the approach is often referred to as the 3 Es model, (economy, efficiency and effectiveness).

However, it is not always obvious how to apply what seems an intrinsically simple and intuitive model. We find clients often ask for help developing the Input-Output-Outcome model and preparing for questions from external auditors and regulators.

They are struggling because they have little documentation about how the approach should operate and how they should create this model. To find out what guidance the public sector was provided with, we investigated many government websites that made reference to the approach. Beyond definitions of inputs, outputs and outcomes, and some simplistic examples, the UK public sector provides almost no guidance as to how this model should be developed.

Some help

For this reason we have put together a white paper that explains the thinking behind the outcome model. The paper explains where the model has come from, (The evaluation of social change programmes) how it should be applied and provides six helpful techniques to improve your outcomes. These improvements come from an understanding of the Logic Model from which the outcome approach was derived.

The paper then goes further. It explains in greater depth how there is deeper within this approach a need for a theory of change. A theory of change that explains how things will be different.

Based on this the paper explains how as the designer and deliverer of a programme of social change you can exploit the approach and also make things clearer for those who are evaluating you.

Want to learn more next? Read the Outcome Model Paper

If you are interested in our Inputs, outputs, outcomes white paper, then follow this link to obtain a copy

How we can help

If you are struggling with outcomes, or the Input, output, outcome model, and want training or expert help, then simply get in touch.

We have helped organisations the NHS, Central Government, City Councils, Mod and even a few commercial organisations with their outcomes model.

To find out more, or for an informal discussion, Contact us