Thursday, September 16, 2010

Abstract to concrete

More from the coffee shop:

Ever tried to explain what a 2% improvement in customer satisfaction means? If you're running a process improvement project with that objective: good luck!

And, I might add: So what? How does 2% change business results?

Beware abstraction
If your project needs a supportive stakeholder community--and every project does, so the question is self-answering--the business-results ambiguity of 2% might not get it.

But, as we coffee drinkers know, if 'dissatisfaction' means 2 customers out of 100 take $X revenue elsewhere, then everyone can understand X and, by extension, the impact of 2/100.

Cause and effect
So, can your project 'fix' revenue flight by dissatisfied customers?  Only if you are addressing root cause.  So it's not enough to put a concrete example around an abstraction like 2% improvement; you actually have to get to the real cause and effect.

It's been my experience that to build support for a somewhat intangible--some say: soft--metric, it's best to start bottom-up with a tangible that everyone can understand. Build the top level metric from the extrapolation of the most atomic and tangible metric you can find.

Claiming success
And, as you build up, keep track of additional cause-effects that will come in tangentially as the concept gets broader with abstraction.  The more abstract the metric, the more cause-effect challenges there will be.

Indefinite, or unresolved cause-effect challenges will do great harm to benefit capture at project transition to operations. The indefiniteness gives myriad excuses to not support full implementation and not give credit where credit is due.

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