After last week’s Tuesday Tidbit, a number of readers wrote in to share stories with me. The tidbit seemed to have hit home with a lot of readers. If you missed it, you could find it here. Here are three responses I received that I wanted to share.

As always, while I don't have time to write back to everybody who responds, I do read every response.  Thanks so much for reaching out, and for allowing me to share your insights!

One President of a company shared this response:

“We were recently talking to a company that was going to provide us with some marketing design services. One of my direct reports asked almost immediately, 'What's your hourly rate?'

I was nodding along when I remembered this Tidbit, and gently shut that line of questioning down, because I realized that you were right – the hourly rate didn't matter.

What mattered was what we'd be left with, and what the total cost was. 

Even in the last week, I've seen so many subtle areas of input vs. output thinking that I'm excited to be able to catch more and more, so we can all stop focusing on the irrelevant things and instead focus on the results."

Another wrote: 

"Thank you for bringing this up. It seems to be commonplace in our industry to always focus on the inputs over the outputs. One of the most valuable things we’ve done is tried to identify how many times we’ve used this type of thinking to make decisions over the past few months, and we’re also applying it to decisions we’re currently considering.

Looking back, here’s an example we found. We spent months trying to choose a vendor to supply us with software for our customer service department. As we looked back, we realized that a lot of time was spent on the cost per month, cost per user, and so forth. What we missed was that we never really figured out how and when to determine if the system had been successful at all! In the end, we chose based on price and features. 

I realize we still have no way of knowing if we made the best decision, but we’re living with it! Hindsight is 20/20 they say!”

This came from a startup founder… 

“I found myself focusing in on hourly rates for creative design work in getting a logo created for my company. I had 30 applications in front of me, and I was going back and forth based on their quoted hourly rates… There was one designer who had pitched me a flat fee service, and I realized after reading this tidbit that's all that I really cared about… So long as it was good, I didn't care if it took somebody 15 seconds of work or 15 days of work, and in fact, I'd prefer 15 seconds because I could start using it earlier.”

Here’s what I want you to take away from these:

I’m not trying to argue the case that it’s always bad to be concerned with inputs. Sometimes, you need to know the hourly rate. Sometimes you need to know the specific steps or components. 

But it’s critical that you’re clear WHY you want to know these things.  

One of the first steps I often take with sales teams is to start tracking inputs… 

For example, I often help companies track the inputs of their sales staff by implementing a lot of activity tracking (Calls made, appointments made, contracts prepared & delivered, etc.) The point of this isn’t just to drive additional activity though – it’s to find the areas where each salesperson is deviating from the norm, and to see how that’s impacting their results.  

Whenever it’s the case that you can directly map inputs to outputs, then, by all means, engage in input thinking.  However, in many cases, there is no connection.  As the startup founder noted if you want a new logo designed, does it matter to you whether the best design took 15 seconds or 15 days if you can only see the output? 

 Of course not.  

Thanks to everybody for sharing your stories!