Benchmark Business Group

Quantification the 14 Letter Word

November 22, 2016

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We once overheard a client referring to Quantification as that 14 letter word. It made us laugh, because we've also felt the pain of trying to decide how and when to quantify results. It seems simple enough, but the truth is sometimes it's a struggle. This month we've been discussing the importance of metrics to a position and we've mentioned the need to track metrics in the last insight, but it's important enough to dive deeper.

There are two core excuses we often encounter when discussing quantification. Now it's important to remember, excuses can be real. In fact, what makes excuses so difficult is that they are often too real for the person that is encountering them. The opportunity is to see that an excuse is nothing more than a barrier that you can choose to work around. The two common excuses are: Time and Ease of Tracking.
 
Time - Whether the excuse is "we don't have time" or "it takes more time to quantify the results than it does just to do it," these excuses tell us one thing. The metric is simply not that important to your business. If it was important to your business you would make time for it. Your business would realize that tracking the metric isn't just about spending time, but investing time. You invest the time to track the metric knowing that it will allow your business to react faster if something isn't working and it will allow you to understand patterns in your business so that you can fix what isn't working. In addition, when good patterns emerge metrics let you know what is working so that it can be replicated. If time is the excuse, we challenge you to look closely at the mindset of your business in regards to how time is spent and the importance of metrics.
 
Ease of Tracking - The excuses we hear for ease of tracking include, "we can't track this" or "it's too complicated." This excuse often intensifies if the metric is not tangible, but is instead intangible such as, "Displays Expert Product Knowledge." Tracking intangible indicators is often done by a "gut-feeling" which can be biased. Instead, we encourage you to find ways to make intangible indicators easier to track. A great tip is to create a legend for the indicator which would then allow you to assign a numeric value to each intangible indicator. Think of a survey where 1 represents Extremely Unsatisfied and 5 represents Extremely Satisfied. This is a simple example and we would expect your legends have more details, but is a good model to see how intangible indicators can be more tangible.

If you find that a metric is difficult to track, we challenge you to go back to the system where the metrics are created and determine a better solution. Read this Steve Jobs quote on elegant and simple solutions and look for a better way. Often times metrics are difficult to track, because the system was not built to track them in the first place. By looking at the system design, you can often find easier and less frustrating ways to get the information that you need.
 
Now, we completely understand that sometimes things are outside of your control: your software doesn't allow for the report you need, or one of your vendors provides a report that can't be customized. There will be barriers that you can't fix, but once again if a metric is important to a position, you will change how you look at quantification and make the decision that your business needs to track it regardless. 
  
Once you move past the excuses for not quantifying a metric, we think you'll find the following tips helpful:
  • Quantification should be driven by the system. If a manager has to go "looking" for quantification it means there are points in the system where information isn't being gathered or communicated.
     
  • Not everyone "likes" quantification, but your team needs to understand why it is important and how it adds value to their ability to get results.
     
  • Tracking a metric, but never reacting to the results (positive or negative) sends the message that it's really not that important.
     
  • Quantification is a 14 letter word, but you set the tone on whether it belongs on the "naughty" or "nice" list.

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