One of the Americans assigned to help Japan rebuild after World War II, Dr. W. Edwards Deming outlined some basic steps to measure the success of any project. As part of his pioneering work in quality management, his ideas gave rise to a continuous process to achieve better quality products and services, and to improve the process that delivers them. The PCDA cycle, or "Deming Cycle" as it is often called, consists of four stages: Plan, Do, Check, Act. The starting point involves identifying a baseline assessment of current practices, and then comparing the actual practices to the intended goals. Significant gaps may indicate problem areas which will require further investigation into the root causes and exploration of possible solutions.
You cannot properly measure unless you first create a baseline set of goals. Measures of success should tell us the following about whether our goals:
- achieved the results we expected;
- produced results we did not expect;
- should be changed;
- should continue (or should it stop);
- should be measured in others ways.
The indicators themselves should reflect the mission and vision of the administrative unit or department. Strategic planning efforts should include an example of what “success” looks like. Without knowing what the end result could be, maintaining focus toward achieving the goal becomes difficult to sustain.
One of the reasons I am a huge fan of Kathy Sierra and her old Creating Passionate Users blog (besides the stellar graphics) is because of her constant highlighting of the common sense things we should all be getting right, but usually don't. From her blog:
Critics of this blog love to say, "Duh!" or "Thanks for stating the obvious." My response is, "While the idea is dead obvious--the problem is that we don't do the obvious." When I hear comments like, "You wasted all that space to say, "Care about your customers", I wonder why we don't. Or rather, I wonder why we all say we care about them, yet our actions reflect a more selfish view.
Exactly. But she also articulates the major problem with this entire line of discussion:
When people ask for the secret sauce guaranteed recipe for success, we say that it's quite simple: just do the "duh" thing. The Big Secret is not about knowing what magical thing to do--it's about taking the "duh" things seriously enough and actually doing them.
Therein lies the root of the problem: finding the secret sauce to making sure you are truly taking care of your customers. You can try to take things seriously and turn your focus to doing the "duh" things for your customer, but how do you know you're doing the right "duh" things? It's a bit more involved than giving yourself some positive affirmations and giving it the good old college try. It does require having some sense of your mission and vision, with clear examples of what success looks like.
How are you tracking your progress, and your customer's happiness quotient? How are you measuring your improvement?
From a Deming perspective, are you achieving results you expect with your customers? Are you producing results you did not expect? Do you need to reset your goals, continue to measure as-is, or stop?
From a Sierra perspective, are you asking the obvious "duh" questions, such as: What is not working? What IS working, and can we do more of that?
My point here is that we need to approach our customers with a goal in mind and measurements of success defined, but we also can't lose sight of the common sense things. Having the data is great, but sometimes its as simple as recognizing that its either working or not working, and then acting on it.