What Gets Measured Gets Done

Business Management Guru

Both of my books, In Search of Excellence and A Passion for Excellence, are said to have placed renewed emphasis on the qualitative aspects of business — for example, on people, customer satisfaction, nurturing of unruly champions and managing by wandering around.

While that comment is true, I retain strong vestiges of my engineering training from 25 years ago and admit to being a closet quantifier. I think the soundest management advice I’ve heard is the old saw; “What gets measured gets done.”

My own organization applies this dictum rigorously. Our five-day executive seminars are organized around a series of “promises” which demand of our participants practical action in our areas: customers, innovation, people and leadership. We quantify wherever possible. Although some of the promises may seem wildly ambitious, each is thoroughly grounded in observed business practice, usually in the toughest markets.

In the customer arena, we believe that regular, quantitative measurement of customer satisfaction provides a much better lead indicator of future organizational health than does profitability or market share change. We suggest monthly measurement. Further, we urge participants to make the level of customer satisfaction the primary basis for incentive compensation and annual performance evaluation for virtually every person at every level in every function throughout the organization. We also urge every organizational unit in every function to develop key quality measures. Progress should be posted on charts in every work space, and a quantitative goal report should be the first item of business at every staff meeting, regardless of topic.

Next, we specify that all marketers should be out in the field, listening to customers, at least 50 percent of the time. Even manufacturing or operations managers should be out with customers, listening, at least 15 percent of the time. In a related vein, each senior manager should habitually call at least four customers (ultimate users, distributors or major franchisees) each week from a “top 100” customer list kept in his, or her, upper desk drawer or wallet.

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