Outcomes Are the Success Criteria for Your Hypotheses

Where business outcomes fit in the Lean UX Canvas and OKRs

Ever since we shared the Lean UX Canvas, teams around the world have used it to kick off initiatives and begin a cross-functional product discovery journey. Over the years, I’ve clarified various parts of the canvas, including sharing a complete canvas example. Perhaps the most critical box in the entire canvas is Box 2: Business Outcomes. This is where I’ve shared about outcomes in previous blog posts:

One thing that continues to come up in Lean UX workshops, as well as OKR conversations, is how the outcomes created in Box 2 relate to other parts of the canvas and how best to use them.

Outcomes are the new definition of done

Modern software is built on continuous platforms. These tools allow us to deploy software as fast as we want. Today’s continuous deployment tools have made software deployment a non-event. In the past, shipping software was the definition of done. In today’s continuous world, reaching an outcome is the new definition of done.

An outcome is measure of human behavior. It tells us how the feature we shipped has impacted the people that consume it. If we choose the right combination of code, copy and design, we should see our users’ behavior change in a positive way. This is our goal. In a world where we can ship and optimize software forever, outcomes tell us when we’re done.

Outcomes help us validate our hypotheses

In the context of the Lean UX Canvas, and specifically Box 2, the outcomes we generate during this exercise serve as the success criteria for the hypotheses we write in Box 6 of the canvas. We determine the validity of a hypothesis by measuring how much human behavior has changed. Often these outcomes are leading indicators to the actual behavior change we are seeking. For example, we may have a goal to increase the completion rate of the checkout process by 65%. However, in order to do that, we first have to figure out how to get people to more effectively add items to their shopping cart. So we may have a leading indicator of “increase number of times a user adds an item to their cart by 50%” as a way to test hypothetical improvements to that part of the checkout process.

Each hypothesis we come up with for solving our user and business problems must have a success metric attached to it in the form of an outcome. In fact, the very first variable in the hypothesis template is where we plug in the outcomes generated in Box 2. “We believe we that [business outcome] will be achieved…” is where these metrics belong. Without a clear measure of human behavior we have no clear indication of whether our ideas stand a chance for success or not. This is how we know whether we should persevere with our hypothesis, pivot from it or kill it and move on to a new idea. Outcomes provide the objective perspective we need to help us make both prioritization and development and design decisions.

What I've been up to

I turned 50 in January. It’s one of those ages that feel surreal as you approach them. When I was growing up, people in their 50’s were “old,” or at least they seemed that way. Today, the most interesting, active, fit and intelligent people I know are those I would have deemed “old” 10-15 years ago. I got to spend my birthday singing karaoke with friends and family, and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.

On the professional front, I continue to deliver Product Management, Lean UX and OKR training to private clients as workshops and keynotes (and sometimes both!). I realized last week that it has been a very long time since I’ve offered a public class on any of these topics. I am considering running a 1- or 2-session public cohort on OKRs over at Maven.com.

Would you be interested in a public 1- or 2-session cohort on OKRs?

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Watch, Listen, Read

Watch: The Menu — This (streaming) movie starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes (among many other familiar faces) starts off predictably enough with a group of obnoxious foodies headed off to an exclusive dinner at the hottest restaurant around. The evening turns south relatively quickly leaving the guests in an inextricable bind. Dark. Sometimes funny. And surprising. I really enjoyed it.

Listen: Solidaritine by Gogol Bordello One of my all-time favorite bands is back with another familiar set of gypsy punk rock and mayhem. No big surprises on this record, and that’s a good thing. Also, if you ever have the chance to see these folks live, don’t miss it. It’s one of the best live shows around.

Read: The Service Organization by Kate Tarling — If there’s someone who knows something about building successful services at scale, it’s Kate Tarling. She’s a veteran of years of experience working with, within and around UK government service organizations as well as other large corporations in the private sector. This is her first book sharing what she’s learned in nearly two decades of service design work. Must read.

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