Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Metrics, Measures and Men

There’s a saying in quality circles, “what get’s measured, improves”.  Do you measure performance at your company? I’m actually a big believer in this idea that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. “Metrics” is one of the key buzzwords these days and is thrown around by all sorts of people. Metrics is just a fancy way of saying measure.

Measuring isn’t quite as simple as that though, is it? What do you measure? What about issues which are tough to put numbers on? “We have a great measurement system, but we don’t really use it because it takes two days just to figure out the current measurement.”

First, every business is different. What we measure at my business will be different than what we need to measure at your business. Why is that? Well, for starters, I’m different than you. My business is different than yours. What I’m most interested in seeing improved will be different that what you’d like to see improved. The goals and plans at my business are not the same as at your business.

“You mean we don’t all measure the same thing?”

No.  What you should measure in your business is based on your own goals and plans. What you measure at the corporate Board of Directors level will be different than what you measure in your regional sales office, on the manufacturing floor, or in the human resources department.

“Wow, this is getting really complicated.”

No, actually, it’s quite simple to determine the issues to be measured. Drilling down to the root cause to collect the proper data for measurement can sometimes be a bear. But, identifying the major issues to be measured is actually quite simple. What do you want to see improved? What are your big performance issues? What do your customers/owners/managers/auditors/partners/vendors complain about? The real issue is getting your employees to change their behavior so that you can collect meaningful data to improve your systems and performance.

“What does this have to do with my employee’s behavior?”

Everything. Most times, data collection means that employees have to “tattle” on themselves. So the pressure is on you to create an atmosphere without fear, where employees can work on your business without fear of being fired. THAT, is where measuring is difficult. It’s not the measuring, per se, is hard. It’s changing employee behavior that’s really difficult.

We’ll keep talking about measuring for performance improvement. Next time I’ll show you a local company with an awesome dashboard and how they use it to improve their business.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

How to hinder your success.

I was talking to a buddy of mine the other day about cell phone minutes. His company, in an effort to reduce expenses from the sales force, has placed a limit on the amount of cell phone minutes the sales force can use each month. As I sit an contemplate the sentence I just typed, I'm still stunned. How do you fake outrage when your real outrage is overpowering it? 

Look, It's their company, not mine. If they want to count pennies while the dollars flow down the drain, that's their business. But this is 2012, not 2002 or even 1992. Cell minutes are cheap, especially with a company plan. Telling your sales staff not to use too many minutes shows that the manager must be an idiot. That's a program that's more about controlling behavior than reducing expenses. And what more, it will likely reduce sales right along with the minutes.

So when you're running low on minutes, what should a sales rep do, look for a pay phone? Do they even have pay phones anymore? If they do would you want to put one of those next to your face?

I'm beginning a series of posts about the nutty things business owners do to hinder their own success. Do you have a story or idea? If so, send it to me. If you're a decent writer (meaning you can put a coherent thought together with actual words) and you want some fame and glory (ha!), I'll publish your story here on my blog. If you'd rather just send me your ideas about how to crash a business, I'll take those too. 

I'll be posting this intro to the series on LinkedIn in the group Linked Across The Valley in a discussion thread of the same title and on The Huntsville Grapevine in my forum area. Feel free to engage in any of these areas.   

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

There’s An App for That

Last week I wrote about the Square credit card reader and smart phone app for taking credit card payments from customers. It’s a great little device and smart phone app that makes taking payments not only quick and easy, but also inexpensive. There are other clever and useful apps on the market, however, that combination is not usually present at the same time.

I have been thinking about small business problems that could be solved with a simple app like the Square credit card reader. What sort of problem or need can you imagine that a simple smart phone app would solve?

Share your ideas in the comments or send me an email. Maybe we can brainstorm a solution to a common small business problem.