Outcomes theory knowledge base (Org)

This knowledge base provides a systematic treatment of outcomes theory as applied to managing the performance of organizations, programs, policies and collaborations [Org]. This site is for those interested in theory. If you want a practical implementation of this theory that can be used to design and implement working outcomes, evaluation, monitoring and performance management systems, you should use Systematic Outcomes Analysis based on the Outcomes Is It Working Analysis (OIIWA) approach from www.oiiwa.org site. If using any ideas or material from this knowledge base please cite this reference as: Duignan, P. (2005-insert current year) Insert name of page in Outcomes Theory Knowledge Base (Organizational) [Available at www.outcomestheory.org]. Any comments on any aspect of this knowledge base appreciated, please send to paul (at) parkerduignan.com.

Characteristics of outcomes (Org) [P7]

Outcomes within an outcomes hierarchy are best viewed as a set of causes in the real world which cascade down from the highest-level outcomes to lower level outcomes. These outcomes can have one or more values on the characteristics listed below.  Within specific outcomes systems users often designate various words to distinguish between outcomes with different values on these characteristics (e.g. impacts, final outcomes, intermediate outcomes, drivers, outputs etc.).  There is still some variation in the use of these terms across outcomes system and hence outcomes theory does not rely on their use to define basic concepts. The approach used in outcomes theory is to use the following list of characteristics to define the essential features of an outcome (causal entity) within an outcomes system. This enables comparisons to be made across outcomes systems in terms of the formal characteristics of entities even in those cases where different names are used for the an entity with the same formal characteristics.

The characteristics on which outcomes can vary are as follows:

Influencibility - An outcome is influencible by another outcome (or intervention) to the extent that the intervention can theoretically change the outcome (independent of whether the outcome can be measured or changes in it attributed to the other outcome or intervention in a specific case).  An outcome may be influencible by one or more other outcomes or interventions.

Controllability - An outcome is controlled by another outcome or intervention to the extent that other outcome or intervention is in normal conditions the only major factor influencing the outcome.

Measurability - An outcome is measurable to the extent that it can be measured at at least one point in time and further that changes in it can be tracked over time.

Attributability - An outcome is attributable to the extent that it can be measured and changes in it can be separately attributed (after the change has taken place and in regard to the specific instance) to one or more other outcomes or interventions.

Accountability - An outcome is accountable to the extent that an intervention organization is positively or negatively sanctioned for change, or lack of change in the outcome.

Reversibility - A change in an outcome caused by a lower level outcome or outcomes may vary in the extent to which it is reversible. 

Response consistency (vs tipping-point) - An outcome has response consistency to the extent that it varies in a steady and consistent manner in response to changes in the lower level outcomes or interventions which cause it.  It has instability to the extent that there are tipping points at which it suddenly changes more rapidly in response to changes in the lower level outcomes or interventions which influence it; for instance, through amplifying feedback loops. This is also known as non-linearity.

Lag - An outcome is lagged to the the extent that there is a significant time delay between changes in the lower level outcomes or interventions which influence it and the time when it actually changes in response to them.


Copyright Dr Paul Duignan 2005 www.outcomestheory.org