Are you measuring performance the right way?


What’s the best way to measure the quality of a repair? Is it speed? How quickly they are returned to the customer? The quality of the work?



How do you measure quality?

And if it is the quality, then how do you measure that?



This was the problem that faced my old friend Mel Stephenson at Total Disc Repair (TDR)

Mel Stephenson in his new building



Here’s an interesting story I heard when I went to a party to celebrate the opening of their brand new factory, which also houses the beautiful new offices for his other company The Data Studio, the company Mel started when he got obsessed with measuring things and using them to improve his business.


Total Disk Repair sells machines that polish CDS and DVDs. If you’ve been skating round the car park on your DVD, they will polish it till it looks like new and plays like new.



They have a range of great machines to do this and, if you have one of those machines and it needs to be repaired, they will do that pretty quickly.



But that’s where the trouble was. Mel is a man who likes to measure things, but he’s very

A computer with graphs

Some of Mel’s nice graphs for measuring things at The Data Studio

particular about what he measures, the graphs he uses and the impact of the measure.



The obvious measure was how quickly you got your machine back. But one of the guys was

not happy with that. He believed in quality not just speed, and wanted that to be measured. In the end they came up with a measure – how many machines were still working perfectly after 30 days.



But what if a machine is returned for a completely different fault?


You might think it’s not fair if the fault is something totally different. As Mel put it; it’s like blaming your mechanic if you go to your garage and have a new clutch then the next week the exhaust fails; it’s just coincidence, right?



But what if the mechanic could have spotted that problem and warned you before hand, so you weren’t stuck with your exhaust hanging off in the middle of nowhere on your holiday the following week. Most of us would prefer to know (I know I would.)



The objective


They decided their goal was that the customer had their machine in perfect working order for as long as possible.



So they started to replace anything that was likely to wear out in the next six months whenever a machine came in.



The customers love it


You can imagine how pleased customers are with this approach. It means that they don’t have to manage without their machines (which costs them money).



It’s a bit more work on each machine


Yes, that’s true, but the machines don’t come in as often. And as a customer, I don’t care why the machine has failed, only that it has failed.




The key to working out difficult objectives


Always start with the customer’s perspective. If you do that it’s hard to go wrong.


Are you measuring performance the right way?

Writing objectives can be difficult, that’s why I wrote “How to Write Objectives That Work” our step-by-step guide to writing your objectives.

Our handy booklet will walk you through 55 simple tools and techniques to ensure that you get your objectives right. It’s short and to the point so you can quickly find the help you need. And of course we’ll show you just what to do with those really difficult objectives that people struggle with.


You’ll discover:

  • The key steps to take to write any objective
  • 7 key words and phrases you must avoid when writing objectives and what to do instead
  • How to make your objectives SMART


And much more.  Get “How to Write Objectives That Work” now

Objectives need to be a lot more than SMART


Reactive and proactive customer service objectives


I was working recently on some objectives for customer service people. One of the objectives was to answer between 20 and 40 ‘tickets’ (complaints) per day. This might be a SMART objective, it’s certainly achievable and measurable and specific, but it’s worse than useless.


Nowhere was there anything about improving the situation or identifying the root causes of the problems.


Apparently one of the managers was quoted as saying that they needed to recruit more people into the department because the people there were ‘snowed under’.
This is the worst example of reactive behaviour.



Give people the power to solve the problems


Can you imagine how frustrating it is to deal with the same problem time and time again? I’m sure you can. You can also imagine how much better it would be to be able to do something about it.


So here’s what you do. You get the people dealing with the problems to catalogue them and work out which ones come up most often.


Then you give them to the power to go to the people whose departments are causing those problems with the information they have, and the power to agree plans for fixing them.
Much of the time, you’ll find that the people causing the problems are completely unaware how much trouble the issues are causing.



Reduce your problems


In one company where we adopted this approach we halved the number of complaints over just a few months.


What’s more, people really enjoyed sorting out all the issues for good.




The wrong objectives


Having the wrong objectives in this situation:


Answer between 20 and 40 tickets per day


Was ensuring that the situation continued and even got worse.




Proactive and reactive


Proactive objectives ensure long-term improvements, reactive objectives allow the situation to deteriorate; they just tackle the immediate.


Proactive objectives usually need more thought and can be harder to work out, but they are always worth the effort. For example:


Identify the top three causes of customer complaints


Identify five options for eliminating problems customers have with ordering our products by Friday.


Agree a plan to eliminate each root cause of customer complaints with the department head responsible within one week of identifying the cause.



Yes these are more difficult to achieve than responding to 40 tickets per day, but the, benefits are much greater. Which would you prefer?


How to write your objectives and set your goals


Getting your objective right isn’t always easy. Our handy booklet “How to Write Objectives That Work” will walk you through 55 simple tools and techniques to ensure that you get your objectives right. It’s short and to the point so you can quickly find the help you need. And of course we’ll show you just what to do with those really difficult objectives that people struggle with.


You’ll discover:

  • The key steps to take to write any objective
  • 7 key words and phrases you must avoid when writing objectives and what to do instead
  • How to make your objectives SMART


And much more.  Get “How to Write Objectives That Work” now

Are your meetings this bad?


I worked with Paul, a client a few years ago who was in a terrible state. He had taken over a

Is this what you spend your time doing in meetings?

department peopled with individuals who were struggling to meet even the most basic standards.


Paul was late for our first meeting with his tie at half-mast; his shirt not properly tucked in and face, a ghastly grey pallor.


I asked him to tell me what had happened. He started recounting the events of the past few days. One of the major issues was the meetings he had to go to (many of which he ran).


He complained that they went on for far too long and people came late and unprepared. The same discussions were held time after time. Some of the participants talked for hours (mainly about things that were completely irrelevant), some not at all.


Standards for meetings


I asked him if he had made the standards he required for meetings clear to his team. He said that people ‘should know’ what the standards were. I pointed out that it was clear that, from the behaviors he had described, they either did not know what the standards were or saw no reason why they should meet them.


Meeting the standards


Make it clear what the standards you expect are. Here are the standards my client imposed. They made a huge difference overnight. When I saw him the following week he reported that he was able to go home an hour earlier each day purely as a result of setting these standards.


Everyone turns up on time


Everyone has read the information


Everyone is prepared with their comments/ideas and can summarise them in a short time (one or two minutes)


Everyone completes their actions after the meeting or lets others know of delays before the next meeting


Review your meetings


Always ask yourself how you could improve the running of your meetings and see what you can implement for next time.


Your time is valuable


You need to make the best use of your time and get things done in an efficient way. So make sure that, if you are going to lots of meetings, they are worthwhile and earn their place in your diary.


A possible exception to the rule


If you work in isolation, you probably need to catch up with your colleagues and make sure you keep in touch with them. So it may be that you need to have less formal meetings where you ask people how they are and generally pass the time of day. That’s fine, as long as you are clear that that is your purpose, and you allow some extra time in your meeting for that. However, don’t waste the time of 10 other people in a big meeting while you’re doing it.


And it’s OK to make meetings fun. They don’t have to be boring to be effective.

Are you missing the obvious?


A few weeks ago I went on a very good short break walking holiday in Yorkshire. The

The Weather Forecasting Stone

scenery and weather were excellent, as was the food.


When you are walking, the weather takes on an importance that it doesn’t have when you are working in the office, so we were shown the “Weather Forecasting Stone” before we set off.


It prompted me to wonder how often you miss the obvious when it is staring you in the face.



The plastic surgeon


I used to go riding with a friend who is a plastic surgeon. (That’s why I never leave the house without factor 50 sunscreen.) She told me many terrifying stories of her patients. One was a man who came to see her wearing a large hat pulled down over one side of his face.


When it took it off, it revealed a massive carcinoma covering much of the area that had been obscured.


She asked him why he hadn’t come earlier. The reason was that he never knew when to draw the line. The cancer had started as a small mole. Now his hat was getting too small to cover it.



How do you decide you need to take action?


It can be very difficult in situations like this to decide exactly when you need to take action. You probably know the story of what happens if you put a frog in cold water and slowly heat it up. Apparently the frog ends up cooked.


On the other hand, if you drop a frog into very hot water, it jumps out.



Don’t shoot the messenger


Paul Moore identified that there was a problem with mortgages at HBOS. He presented a summary to the board. He was fired. The man who fired him says his concerns were fully investigated and were without merit.


We are all now completely aware of the issues with many banks and problems that had been going on for years. It’s clear that there were plenty of warnings, but they were ignored. People don’t see what they don’t want to see. Or perhaps they think they can get away with it and it will all blow over.



A question for you


It’s always easy to look at the mistakes others have made. So ask yourself what you are ignoring to your peril.



Your brain


When you are worried or feel threatened, your brain interprets new information as an attack, even if it is meant to be helpful. This is just how your brain works at that moment in time. So next time you think you are being attacked, do your best to look at the information objectively.


Often ‘whistle-blowers’ and bearers of bad news have the best interests of the organization at heart. If you can recognise it as a gift instead of a challenge, you may avoid a far worse fate.



Identify what you need to achieve


Make sure you are focusing on what it is you really need to achieve, rather than what you are trying to avoid. This is very important when you are writing your objectives and goals.


I suspect in some of the cases where whistle-blowers were ignored or fired, the objectives of the individual  (or even of the organisation) were wrong, or at least not what we would have liked them to be. It certainly looks as though some people were more concerned about enriching themselves even if that was at the expense of their customers.

Failure and its part in your success



There are some objectives it’s very easy to get wrong. One particular area is in research. In research you often get several teams working on different options for solving a particular problem. You see team objectives like this:


“Get our idea for the new XYZ product accepted.”

“Get compound XYZ through to the next stage.”


Or something similar. The implication is that, if the team does not get their compound or idea through to the next stage, it has failed.


The objectives here are completely wrong. They should be:


“Identify if our idea for the new XYZ product meets the customers’ needs.”

“Identify if compound XYZ meets the criteria for the next stage of development.”


Much research and development involves trying out many options to find one that gives you the results you need. Each time you eliminate one, you move closer to your answer.


You rarely get it right first time. A great deal of research starts with the objective:


“Find a way to…”


The objective for people in the teams that are trying out all the different ideas is to find out if their idea works, not to force it to work if it does not.



We all need objectives like this


In his fascinating new book, “Adapt” Tim Harford ably explains why you won’t survive if you don’t take a few risks and try new things. In fact risk-taking is vital to success.



If it’s so important, why don’t people take more risks?


The reason is because your brain hates losing more than it likes winning. It’s to do with the way it works.



A little gambling experiment


Here’s an interesting game I have used on many workshops. Every participant gets £10

Red, white and lilac gambling chips

Can you take the risk?

worth of gambling chips. I toss a coin 15 times. Each time I toss the coin you can either bet just £1 on the outcome or not bet at all. If it’s heads you lose your stake, if it’s tails you win £2.50.


If you have any basic maths, you will know that you rarely get better odds than this. You also know that by far the best strategy here is to bet on every toss of the coin.


But hardly anyone ever does. The reason is that people would rather keep their £1 chip than risk losing it, even though they stand a 50% chance of gaining £2.50.


You see this kind of behaviour everywhere. For example, when people lose their jobs to redundancy they are completely unable to see the opportunities that are opening up, and, because of the fear of the loss.



Take some risks


So now that you know what causes the problem, try taking a few small risks and be prepared for failures. By being prepared, I mean factor in the cost and plan so any failure is affordable.


The benefit will be that every now and then you will have a success.



Make sure you can tell success and failure apart


The key to getting those successes is to have a clear objective and make sure you have a way of knowing when you have a winner and when you have a loser. The more quickly and effectively you can identify this, the more quickly you will be successful.



Make risk-taking safe


If you plan it properly, you can usually make risk-taking safe. This means planning it so that when some of your tests fail, it’s not a complete disaster and you can afford it.

Try things on a small scale first, and do not put all your eggs in one basket.



But make sure you do it and get the objective right


If you have the objective right you will be clear about the difference between success and failure and will not waste your resources trying to force through options that are no use. Good luck!



You will find help with getting the objective right in my booklet “How to Write Objectives that Work”. It takes you through, step-by-step, how to write your objectives and has plenty of examples you can use.