The Truth About “If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Manage It”

“How did you KNOW it was a success?”

I asked that question several times last week in a forum that I participated in with a group of business people.   We were trading best practices about process and training initiatives that had been considered “successful”.

I have a problem with using that kind of word without some facts to back it up.   I need some kind of measurement that shows how the initiative made the company better, and ultimately more profitable.

The thing is, I am a proud member of the if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it school of business.

It’s not one of those total absolutes, but I’ll say this – it’s pretty darned close.

So when I would hear “proof” that was anecdotal, or based on “feel”, or hearsay, or seven degrees of separation indirectness, I usually don’t buy it.

I’ve just been burned too many times before.    Throwing dollars at things that were “the right thing to do”, without thinking about any direct way to measure it at the back end.

Here’s an example:  In my old line of business, cable TV,  we used to give customers a lot of manuals about how to operate the remote control and set up their e-mail and voice mail.

We would spend tons of money on these things, because the thought was, the manual was the thing that was going to prevent the customer from having to call us back, or worse, ask us to come back out to the house to help them (which we would call “customer education truck rolls” – or CETRs), both of which cost the company more money.

The thing was, we never had a way of measuring how many people actually READ the manuals – so we really couldn’t tie them to our “success” in reducing those extra calls and truck rolls.

But a slick and cool manual was “the right thing to do”, so off we went to produce them. But yet, those CETRs were still very high.    So we’d change the manuals again.  No change.

Finally, I had to kick myself for momentarily choosing to forget that truism about measuring things – and challenge ourselves to come up with a way to do it, and reduce the CETRs.

Here’s what we decided to do – we would make it an absolute requirement that our technicians, at the original visit to the house to install the services, take the time to SHOW the customer how to use the remote, and set up the email and voice mail.

And then, because we had a callback program in place where we called every customer 7 days after a technician visit, we asked the calling service to ask the customer the additional question of whether the technician did what we asked them to do with the remote, email and voice mail.

We then got a report, every day, of the “percent of completion” of that task.

The first report showed that we did it 87% of the time.   We then set a target for 98%, and went to work.  We retrained our techs.  We coached them.  And measured again. And again.

Slowly, the number went up, and finally, one week, we hit 98%, and eventually hit 99% (my boss, bless him, always pushed me to get to 100%, but alas, we got pretty darn close).

And in the best news of all – the CETRs were cut in half, at an annual savings of $800,000 per year.

We measured it, and managed it, and achieved a measurable success.

Those dots HAVE to be connected.  It’s just the truth.

So as leaders, we also HAVE to ask that question, always – “How do you KNOW it was a success”?

(Photo by Bigstock)





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