Stating the Obvious

One of the reasons I am a huge fan of Kathy Sierra and the 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.

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.

And there’s the root of the problem — what is 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 right "duh" things? How are you tracking your progress, and your customer’s happiness quotient? How are you measuring your improvement? It’s a bit more involved than giving yourself some positive affirmations and giving it the good ol’ college try.

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 work 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.

If you’re interested in reading some additional content on Dr. Deming’s theories at work in business. I co-authored a whitepaper in 2003 for the W. Edwards Deming Institute’s 8th Annual Research Seminar that may be of interest.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.