How to Identify the Right Performance Objectives

Getting the most out of an engineering or analytics project requires the thoughtful coordination of specifically targeted solution tactics. However, generating optimal returns from this process also, and more fundamentally, presumes that the right problem has been targeted. How do we increase the chances of getting that right, and of advancing on practical solutions to address the right problems? How do we do this while also allowing ourselves the opportunity to step back, and (perhaps fundamentally) redefining the problem, when we reach diminishing or even negative returns on our investment of time and resources?

The primary aim of Mastering Project Discovery: Successful Discipline in Engineering and Analytics Projects is to provide an integrated, comprehensive framework and structured process to help manage, advance and optimize engineering and analytics projects – what we call the OUtCoMES Cycle. We motivate and provide practical anchorage of the Cycle using a series of exercises and real-world case examples, highlighting the importance of key principles and organizational architecture. For color, we include related historical and literary references, and provide closure to each chapter in the form of a ‘practitioner’s recap’. The collaboration between established academic scholars, analysts and engineers at Amazon makes for a ground-breaking and culture-shifting practical reference and guide for students, practitioners and academic scholars alike. The book both offers direction for building deep understanding of how to repeatedly identify and address the right problem within project contexts, as well as practical resources to help readers master this process. 

The OUtCoMES Cycle begins with the identification of core performance objectives. Objectives, in the OUtCoMES Cycle, describes measurable outcomes that serve as both the motivating force catalyzing project investments, and around which local reference system details orbit, as well as definitive yard sticks by which project success is ultimately measured.

The selection of Objectives is certainly something that is instrumental, and while there are various considerations in the selection process, a few details are critical:

  1. Distinguishing between Fundamental and Means Objectives, and between Managerial and Analytical Objectives. Fundamental Objectives are higher level, not always immediately pursuable. For that reason outlining intermediate goals (Means Objectives) along that path are critical.
  2. Similarly critical is the distinction between Objectives in managerial terms (e.g. we need to find a way to reduce cost, or at least identify where cost is coming from, or where our constraints to reducing cost are the greatest, etc.) vs. Analytical Objectives (e.g., optimal solutions should outperform Y, predictions of cost should be above Y%, etc.). Analytical Objectives allow analysis teams to benchmark and convey confidence in their analysis and prescriptions offered to management.
  3. When selecting Managerial Objectives and their Analytical Objective counterparts, we suggest thinking about Transparency, Plasticity and Fit. Transparency relates to whether or not data is in fact available for benchmarking and analysis specific to the Objective. Plasticity is whether there is current or historical evidence that changes to that Objective in the direction desired is in fact possible, and whether levers are available for making such change. Fit focuses on the current needs and priorities of the organization or user. Clearly even if data/analytical evidence exists for the potential of advancing an Objective, such efforts might not align with the core needs of the party being served. Projects with Objectives possessing high Transparency, Plasticity and Fit characteristics tend to be the most impactful in our experience.

This blog post has been shared with permission from the authors of Mastering Project Discovery: Successful Discipline in Engineering and Analytics Projects. You can learn more about the OUtCoMES Cycle in Mastering Project Discovery, which is available for preorder now. Ordering options and additional resources are available at

You can also learn more about these topics at the 2024 COE Summit—Dr. Elliot Bendoly, Distinguished Professor of Operations and Business Analytics at the Fisher College of Business, will lead a breakout session drawing from insights and activities featured in the forthcoming Mastering Project Discovery. To learn more and register for the Summit, please visit

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