Difference Between Outcome and Output

Every project you do or every action you take ultimately ends up with two results- outputs and outcomes. These two germs are often interchanged by most people.


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Suppose you are going to arrange a charity. You think about giving away warm clothes to the street children during the winters.

You organize the event and give away 200 blankets and 150 sweaters to poor children. These numbers are the exact outputs of the event.

However, the outcome is that these children are smiling now, are warm, and feeling better. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Output refers to tangible or intangible products, services, or results from a program or project produced. In contrast, outcome refers to the changes or benefits that result from the program or project.
  2. Output can be measured quantitatively, while the outcome is often measured qualitatively.
  3. While both output and outcome are important in the program or project management, the outcome is ultimately more important as it measures the impact of the program or project on its intended beneficiaries.

Outcome vs Output

The difference between output and outcome is that the output lies in your very own hands, but the outcome does not depend on you. 

Outcome vs Output

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonOutputOutcome
Time-periodWe get immediate results after taking an action which is known as output.The outcome is a prolonged process that does not occur right after you finish the project or take an action.
MeasurementYou can measure output in numbers.You cannot measure outcomes in numbers. 
ControlOutputs are controlled by the program or the action you take.Outcomes are just influenced by the deed you do.
RelationFrom outputs, we have our outcomes. Outcomes are the result of outputs. Meaning, we cannot have outcomes if there had been no outputs. 
SimplicityOutputs are rather simple to achieve.However, outcomes are not so simple to get and are rather complex. 

What is the Outcome? 

When put in simple words, the outcome means the consequence of any action. If you take any action or complete any project- the way how it ends or its impact on people and society is known as the outcome. 

Every business has a certain outcome as its target for which it undergoes certain projects. But the process of achieving this outcome is not simple.

You cannot get an outcome in one night. It is a long process.

You cannot even validate or measure any outcome as they are intangible. They are the ultimate end-products you wish to achieve in your work. 

You cannot control an outcome. Though it is the result of output and depends on it, how the outcome turns out to be is not in your hands. 

For example, you have a kid who wants to celebrate his birthday by cutting a huge chocolate cake. You go to the cake shop and order his much-desired cake.

When he cuts it, he is extremely happy and smiling. This is the outcome of your desire in this entire project. 


What is Output?

In simple terms, the things you get or achieve to have a proper outcome for your project are the outputs of any particular action. Outputs are simpler than outcomes.

You can even control the outputs of your projects and measure them in numbers as they are tangible. It results in outcomes, and getting an output means your project work is done. 

The programs have control over output. It is a result that we can get immediately, and don’t have to wait for. 

If we take the same example as that of your kid having a birthday party. The output is the cake that you ordered and got delivered.

It does not depend on your efforts and it is not the ultimate desired product either. You get it immediately, and it is also countable. 


Main Differences Between Outcome and Output

  1. The primary difference between an output and an outcome is that outputs are simple things. They do not take much time to happen, can be measured in numbers or any other units. It is easier to get outputs and do not relay the effectiveness of an action or project. On the other hand, outcomes are way more complex and take time to occur. You cannot get the outcomes immediately. They cannot be measured in units and is something that is to be felt. 
  2. Outputs result in outcomes. But, they do not depend on outcomes. On the other hand, outcomes are heavily dependent on outputs. If your outputs aren’t present or not good enough- your outcomes might not be so good either. 
  3. We use effectiveness, efficiency, and efficacy to measure how the outcome went. We cannot measure the effectiveness of an action or a deed by its outputs. 
  4. Even the education system is based on outcomes and outputs. Suppose you are a teacher who taught 200 little children in school. That is your output. But, on the other hand, these children grew up to be good human beings, and help others. This is the outcome of the entire process. 
  5. You are going to arrange your parents’ anniversary, you need to order a cake and food for the event. When you order the things, and they deliver the cake and food items to you- those items are the outputs of this particular action of yours. Whereas, In the same anniversary event, after ordering all the food items, calling people, and arranging the party nicely- you see the happiness and smiles on your parents’ faces. That is the outcome of this effort or project. 
  6. You do not do any projects or take any action for the output. On the other hand, outcomes are the main reason for people taking any step or action. 
  7. Outputs are in complete control of the one who is taking a step or action. However, the outcomes are not in anyone’s hands. No one can control the outcome of any project or action. 
Difference Between Outcome and Output
  1. https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1469-1795.2011.00516.x
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1475-4991.2012.00504.x
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