March 28, 2009

Measuring Success

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , at 5:30 pm by lindaslongview

magnifyingglassAs a process development specialist, measurement advice, admonitions, and charges are entirely imbedded in my psyche. As I think about measurement, the two adages that immediately surface in my mind are Goldratt’s observation: “Tell me how you measure me and I’ll tell you how I’ll behave” (this is about the behavior of people in organizations) and Deming’s popularization of what has now become the Six Sigma mantra of “Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control” (this is about improving inanimate processes).

The challenge with measurement is sometimes it is hard to figure out how to measure something or collect the data in real-time. I, for one, have developed some of the kookiest measurement schemes ever (if you are interested, ask). Yet some measurements do not lend themselves to monitoring over time – they do not become systems or processes. As such, I have always been a bit envious of internet based processes and marketing campaigns for which is almost trivial to collect data real-time.

As a hard-core data junkie, when I read Super Crunchers by Ian Ayres, I was in awe and intensely jealous of the ease with which definitive process improvements were possible. However, I read a blog post yesterday that reminded me that even though it is may be easier to measure and improve (some?) marketing campaigns, organizations sometimes do not take the long view and measure performance!

So, even though it is well known that measurement is a key to success over the long view, organizations require constant reminders to measure their success. Consider this your reminder…plan your systems to include measurement and build them that way!

Do you have a measurement story?


  1. Deborah said,

    Kookiest measurement schemes…If there was one you think I could understand, I’d love to hear it…? Also noticing your asking questions…got me interested and drwn in as you can see.
    PS- I will be doing some V-BY Deborah appointments this week. If you want I will alert you when I’m finished and have 15 minutes to show you… It would likely be noonish pst Tuesday or Wednesday. Let me know. Well at least we can meet over webex!

  2. lindaslongview said,

    Usually, continuous variable measurements are needed to accurately discern differences. So things that are attributes are hard to measure.

    On one product that I worked on, we were getting blemishes on very large plastic cylindrical parts (big enough for a kid to stand inside) that we were manufacturing. The size and character of the blemishes were non-uniform and could occur anywhere on the part. Even though the blemish didn’t affect the product performance, they were cosmetic customer concerns. In order to fix the problem, we had to track down the process variable(s) responsible for blemishes — not all parts had them. That’s where the kooky measurement system came in. Our key insight was to use sheets of overhead transparencies (does that date me or what?!) and a sharpie to trace all of the blemishes on the surface of the part. We then cut out the tracings and weighed them. By doing this, we transformed a subjective blemish grading system into a continuous variable measured in grams. By tracking when the problem was worst (most grams), we were able to find the variables responsible and lock down the process to make blemish-free parts. 🙂

    I hope this was understandable — thanks for asking!

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