Gentle Bamboo Solutions

How to Create Objectives and Outcomes for your Programs

A hand writing a to-do list in a notebook | Objectives and Outcomes

When I was in college, I had a paper called “Computer Architecture” in 5th semester. It wasn’t a subject I understood very well. But I will always remember the first class.

The professor spent the entire first class talking to us and setting expectations. She explained:

  • the purpose of this subject,
  • everything we will learn over the semester
  • and in what order she will teach the concepts.

It is unfortunate that she used to speak very fast, because I couldn’t remember all that information. Yet, I was a LOT more comfortable about the subject going forward, even excited by it.

As a student, I was in an environment where all the subjects were new and foreign. So I appreciated her for trying to get us on the same page.

Why are we doing this?

If you are taking your family on a road trip, it is nice to say, “we’re going for a drive!” But somebody will ask, “where are we going?”

People like spontaneity and wonder, but they love sureness. They like to know why something is happening.

In training and facilitation, your learners want to know what and why they’re learning. Answering that question at the beginning has distinct benefits:

  • It brings everybody to the same level of expectation.
  • It helps you plan and structure your programs.
  • It encourages more enthusiastic participation from your learners.
  • It keeps your clients happy and shows them you understand their needs.

To answer the question “why are we doing this?” you need to define Objectives and Outcomes.

What are objectives and outcomes?

Often, these terms are used interchangeably, but they’re not the same. Objectives are what your learners will learn in the session. Outcomes are what your learners can apply the objectives towards.

For example, say you’re teaching a class about effective email writing. An example of an objective is “The learner will be able to write a well-structured email.” The outcome will be a result of that objective. For example, “The reader of the email will be able to read the email faster and with more clarity. They will save time and won’t need many replies for clarification.”

Objectives help you decide what to do. Outcomes help you understand why you’re doing those things.

To create your own objectives and outcomes, you should reverse-engineer needs.

Reverse-Engineer Needs

When you are attempting to create a program, start with why you’re doing it. Your client will tell you their needs. Take those needs and break them down and quantify them. These are your outcomes.

With each broken down outcome, figure out how to teach that to your learners. Those are your objectives.

For example, say your client needs an employee to take more ownership at work. You can break that down to the following needs:

  1. The learner should be able to handle a task from end-to-end.
  2. The learner should be aware of progress at all times.
  3. The learner should be able to communicate status regularly.
  4. The learner should feel responsible for the task.

You can quantify these broken-down needs to create outcomes:

  1. The learner can create a plan showing all the steps in the task.
  2. The learner can create milestones for each step in the task.
  3. The learner can send a weekly status report.
  4. The learner can explain the value of the task.

Now you can use these outcomes to set objectives for the program:

  1. Learn common planning templates and how to modify them for your work.
  2. Estimate time and effort for each step and plan realistic timelines.
  3. Learn to create an email template and how to schedule emails.
  4. Learn to clarify business value of work and ask superiors for more information.

This example is one interpretation of the client’s need. There can be different break-downs of the same need. You should clarify objectives and outcomes with your clients. Ensure that your interpretation is what they need from the program.

You now understand how to think about objectives and outcomes and create them for your own programs. As you practice this skill, you will get better at it and will be able to expect client needs.

To hear more from us, listen to this episode of the A2Z of Facilitation. You will learn about action words and more.