So, Gulzar argues that "it is unrealistic to target outcomes in cases of public production involving engagement intensive activities (education, health)".
There's some truth to this argument, depending on the state of the system. Consider this story of Mr. Manoj, District Education Officer of Deoria, Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Manoj is an upright officer facing all odds to get teachers to school. He gets death threats, his office is vandalized and many other things. He even carries a pistol with him for safety purposes.
In a failed system like that with so many things broken, when Mr. Manoj has to spend enormous energies on just ensuring teacher attendance, it may sound unfair to expect him to focus on other elements or outcomes.
Potential harms of output approach
1. Defining outputs in a certain manner and focusing on them can be detrimental: The problem with outputs approach is that it's subject to wide interpretation. Defining outputs in a certain manner can actually be detrimental, especially when it comes to monitoring metrics of personnel. "Completion of syllabus" and "Ensuring all CCE papers are checked" are examples of two such output metrics that have turned detrimental.
Excessive focus on completion of syllabus is taking away the focus from "did the children learn?" to "did the teacher teach?", creating a perverse system. It creates a false illusion that the job has been done when in fact it has not been done (child hasn't learnt), thereby misleading us. It also creates an additional hurdle for reform because one has to first bring people out of such illusion, which is a difficult task.
Similarly, these days, CCE support and monitoring of teachers is reduced to output metrics of "did the teacher enter marks in the register?", taking the focus away from the real essence of CCE. All that the teachers now are worried about it is, whether the marks have been entered in the CCE register, regardless of how the correction is done, whether they learnt something about the children in the process, whether they incorporated these in their next session etc. To make matters worse, sometimes teachers make students correct papers themselves and enter the marks, achieving the "output".
In all these cases, focus on outcomes would have helped to avoid this tragedy.
Advantages of outcome approach
4. Outcome approach helps realize the missing elements and creates a demand for them: When one follows an outcome approach, one realizes the need for some elements, which aren't otherwise obvious. One may argue that it costs money to achieve all these and hence is unrealistic. But the point is that there is value in realizing the need for these elements, even if they are not met. Also, such realization helps build pressure, which if not now, may help in long term.
Daunti-ness is a function of "will" also, not just the "nature of task"
Nature of 'political will' and the 'approach' matter
Similarly, an appropriate approach is needed because incorrectly spent political will (here, here) only hurts in long term.