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The term outcome is a brilliant way of describing the impact and value of doing something. I also like to use outcomes to help describe the capabilities of people and practices or disciplines. Let me explain why it’s so helpful.

I’ve been working in the area of growing capability and mapping progression for a number of years. One thing that I find is that there are so many words used interchangeably; one of these terms is the one used for describing what people can contribute. I hear terms like skills, capability, and ability to all mean the same thing. So, a while back, I started to define this term and, after building on it, have used it ever since. It’s dotted around a few posts on this blog and in my Team Onion book, but I thought it deserved its own post.

What is an outcome?

An outcome is something that follows as a result or consequence. It is the value created and not how it was done.

How does this apply to people and disciplines?

I like to describe disciplines through the outcomes they achieve, the result or benefit of something, rather than the tools, methods, or approaches used to create that result, especially when working with progression frameworks.

This framing helps people and practices have autonomy over their approaches to achieve outcomes, encouraging learning and innovation rather than dictating specific technical skills or tools when they’re not needed.

For example, an outcome of good delivery management is “a Consistent, smooth pace of delivery”. There are different approaches that someone might apply to achieve that outcome, and they will adapt them to a specific context and the needs of the team.

Don’t get me wrong, lists of tools, methods, or approaches can be useful, and consistent approaches are sometimes needed, but they tend to change more regularly, whereas disciplines are more persistent.

This brings me back to how I describe a capability.

My definition of capability


The application of knowledge, skills and experience to achieve an outcome


Knowledge is
the awareness or familiarity of information and concepts. It can be checked through understanding.

Skills are
the practical application of knowledge. An ability that people can learn, develop and demonstrate.

Experience is
the repeated application of skills in different contexts and complexity, including the local environment.

These three parts also help to guide people through learning, from gaining knowledge through reading, training and watching to applying it in real-life contexts and then using it in multiple situations.

I’ve found this definition useful to help people identify their own development needs, for line managers to have helpful progression conversations and for organisations to identify their capability gaps.

Let me know if it resonates with you.