Programme design

How to formulate strong outputs

Outputs are arguably not the most important level of the results chain. It is outcomes that should be the focus of a good plan. Ultimately, that´s what counts.

However, outputs still matter.

Just to be clear: Simply put, outputs refer to changes in skills or abilities, or the availability of new products and services. In plain lingo: Outputs are what we plan to do to achieve a result.

Ok, let’s be a bit more precise: Outputs usually refers to a group of people or an organization that has improved capacities, abilities, skills, knowledge, systems, policies or if something is built, created or repaired as a direct result of support provided. That’s a definition we can work with.

Language is important

When describing what you do, focus on the change, not the process. Language matters.

Don’t say: ‘Local organisations will support young women and men in becoming community leaders.’ This emphasises the process rather than the change.

Instead, emphasis what will be different as a result of your support. Say: ‘Young women and men have the skills and motivation to be community leaders’

Make it time-bound

An organization’s support is typically not open-ended. You usually expect to wrap up what you do at a certain time. Emphasise that your activities are carried out within a certain time frame. So it’s always helpful to include in the formulation for example ‘By January 2019, …’. 

A formula for describing what you do

To ensure that you accurately describe what you do, use the following formula:

Thomas Winderl, 08.09.2020

4 replies on “How to formulate strong outputs”

Very simple and practical information on getting the formulation right. Do you have a similar formula on outcome and impact level? That would be great!

Hi Miriam. Thanks, nice to know. On outcome formulas: That’s a bit more difficult. In general, I would start with “BY data” to make it time-bound. Then we have two options: 1) duty-bearers’ (most of the time the government’ + doing something different or better. For example: By 2025, the Department of Communication responds to copy-right infringement complaints on average within 24 hours. 2) right-holders (=citizens) + a difference in their lives or doing something different. For example: By 2026, vulnerable adolescents in X consume less alcoholic drinks. If you want to know more, we currently offer a free course on Results Based Management on our Results Lab website at

How to formulate strong outputs

by Thomas Winderl time to read: 1 min