Measuring matters

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When I was little I made a lot of important decisions based on color. Choosing between a red shirt and a blue? I chose blue every time. Blue was a better color. Between Icee pops? Same thing. What can I say I liked blue.

 

Over time I learned that for somethings color wasn’t a great indicator of performance. Choosing a grocery line? It almost never pays to choose based on the shirt color of the last person in line. Typically I like to choose these lines on the basis of current line length and estimated shopping cart items. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t but as far as informal decision support metrics it does ok.

 

Most of us leverage these types of learned strategies everyday. We make choices about what lane to drive in, who to ask for help and where to go next based on models we have developed over time. These models become more fixed over time, although most of us have adjusted our models here and there to account for things like the “excessively talkative checkout clerk.”

 

The decisions we make in the office should be no different. They should be based on models that we build up over time and are updated regularly to take into account for new inputs. I think one of the biggest gaps many organizations have is that by failing to develop formal decision models over time, they fail to understand what led to success and what led to failure and of course because it is informal nobody can learn from either.

 

I’m certainly not advocating for turning every decision into an overly formal exercise in data gathering and evaluation that leads to analysis paralysis. I do however think that identifying key decisions that your organization makes repeatedly and then developing set criteria for evaluation can lead to improved decision making over time. It certainly does hurt to have this information available to others within the organization as well.

 

When we go started with ExAM (ExAM4Enterprise.com) our focus was on data collection and analysis with the belief that by making it easier to collect information about their organization and then helping them to develop decision models based on that information we could be part of changing the way organizations did their business and help them achieve a higher level of performance.

 

What we didn’t know then was that it would lead to so much work in the inspections and compliance space. Looking back at it now, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Most inspections are exercises in data gathering that are supposed to support decision making (No working refrigeration, No Food Service permit).

 

In the end I’m happy that we’ve managed to help so many organizations support these types of decisions. Unfortunately, outside of compliance I think that this type of ongoing evaluation and decision support that is talked about more than implemented. Getting better results requires identifying key decisions, the information required to support the decision and ideally a method for weighing (scoring) that information to support decision making.

 

Of course if all else fails, you can always fall back on choosing blue.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Telling a story

Using iMovie to Tell a Story

Using iMovie to Tell a Story

One of the things organizations are often tasked with is getting the word out. Company’s get the word out about products, a government agency’s about programs and charitable organization’s reach out to their constituencies. Today that can seem easier than ever with so many tools available. Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools have taken their place in our quiver of capabilities for reaching out. Getting noticed though still requires telling a story.

I did our Spring 2014 ExAM4Government.com and ExAM4Enterprise.com campaigns using iMovie. Please let me know which you like better in the comments below and vote for Mission Attainable (the first one) or Finish Line (Second) in the comments below. The winner will be used in our Spring 2014 campaign.

ExAM & Salesforce1: Mission Attainable

or

ExAM & Salesforce1 – Spring 2014

Ok, I admit it I used a few other tools I’ll talk about down the road (Adobe Premier, Fireworks, SimCap, and IOS Simulator), but I want to focus on iMovie because it is probably the most accessible.

One of the things I like most about iMovie is the trailers. They provide you with a few different pre-made templates that allow you to tell your own story using a very high quality professional template.

iMovie1 Template Choices

iMovie1 Template Choices

The most important word in that last sentence was story. I’ve made lots of clips over the years and I’ve learned that you can overcome having lower end equipment and software, but you can’t skimp on the story. Scripting your words, shots and video is critical to making people care. I love the iMovie templates because they make it so easy to pull together the planning part of story telling with the work of actually creating it.

Unfortunately the templates that come with iMovie are all that you get and there is no ability to build your own in the app. However you can get almost the same value by simply grabbing a large (I use 11×17) sheet of paper and drawing boxes where you label your pictures and video clips along with narrative text. A little work up front will help you tell a much better story.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Want better answers? Three steps to asking better questions.

The Social Enterprise

Ask better questions and harness the social enterprise

One of the things management consultants tend to do is ask a lot of questions. In fact I’ve heard from time to time that its because we don’t know have any answers and asking questions keeps clients from figuring that out. There is actually a little bit of truth to this, now before you start thinking I’ve just let the cat out of the bag or sullied the reputations of management consultants the world over. I will say that asking the right questions is how you get to the right answers. Its a real skill and a capability that can enable you to change your organization, improve performance and help you meet your goals.

Sometimes management consultants come into a set of circumstances with more information than the client but those times are rarer than you think. This is for fairly obvious reasons if you stop to think about it. The management consultant may be an expert in a particular field, set of tools, or market space but they are generally not experts in your organization, your problems and your particular situation. What most good management consultants do have is a combination of domain expertise, experience and problem solving skills that can help them ask questions that will lead them to the answers. They also have a fresh perspective on your organization without all of the preconceived notions and stale thinking that can come from living an organizational problem every day.

Whether or not you decide to bring someone in to help you work through a problem you can learn from these pros and give yourself a leg up in solving organizational problems by taking the following three steps to asking better questions:

  1. Focus on the information you need to make the decision, solve the problem or get to that next level of understanding. To often people spend more time pursuing comprehensive understanding as opposed to focusing in on the keys that will unlock value.
  2. Use a systematic approach to asking questions. There’s a reason you often see a consultant asking questions from a notebook and then furiously jotting down notes as you answer. In many cases consultants will even use structured methods and tools for data intake in order to ensure that they ask all the questions they need and capture all of the data. Unstructured interviews lead to stakeholders wandering across topics, tilting at personnel windmills and veering into off topic discussions.
  3. Ask the right people your questions. If you only talk to people that agree with you chances are you aren’t getting enough information to make good decisions. If you don’t ask a healthy cross section of stakeholders, you run the risk of optimizing a solution for one group to the detriment of others. Make sure you are asking the right people the right questions.

The above three items are just a starting point. We have entered into a world technology has enabled us to ask more, better questions across a broader set of stakeholders than ever before. Questionnaires, surveys and assessments are woefully underutilized by most organizations. Technologies like our Extensible Assessment Manager (ExAM4Enterprise.com) Salesforce app are attempting to change that. This is an area that is exploding as a myriad of companies like ours are looking at how to harness the power of the social enterprise to support their change initiatives.

Want better answers? Ask better questions.

 

 

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.