think in terms of inputs and outputs to design better processes

Output: what you get once you complete a process
Input: what you need in order to complete the process

When thinking about designing a process, begin with the end in mind and know what you want to achieve.

Take a meeting, for example.

If you’re calling a meeting, you’re asking for someone’s time. To be respectful and make valuable use of the time you are granted, be sure to know the outcome you’re after. Examples:

  • Clear next steps
  • A decision made
  • People brought up to speed

Whatever it is, that’s your output.

Now, depending on how much time you have together, you need a process that will get you to that specific output.

It could be an outline, like an agenda, or an exercise, like an interview. Whatever process you decide upon, be sure to choose one that’s most likely to give you the result you’re seeking.

Once you know that process, think about what you and others might need in order for that process to run effectively.

Those are your inputs.

Are you crafting an agenda? Then you need to know exactly what needs to be talked about—inputs.

An interview? You need to know what questions you want answered—inputs.

A 1-hour meeting with 10 people? You damn well better know what needs to happen during that 10-hour meeting in order for progress to be made, and you better make sure everyone is properly prepared to use that time effectively—inputs.

Whatever you’re seeking to achieve, when you’re working to design a process that gets you to a specific outcome, try thinking in context of inputs and outputs.

This might be helpful when

  • Designing a workshop
  • Mapping a process
  • Creating a service
  • Facilitating a meeting
  • Running an event

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