Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Image courtesy of muffet68
I originally wrote today's post for Intradiem. It was published on their blog on October 22, 2014.

How well do you vet any process improvements or other changes within your organization before you make them?

I've used this quote, i.e., Pearson's Law with my addition in bold below, in posts and presentations several times in the past, but it's one worth repeating:

When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, and acted upon, the rate of improvement accelerates.


So I started thinking about what happens when we accelerate improvement – and that’s when the proverb "measure twice, cut once" came to mind. Why? Well, especially given my addition to it, I think it's important to not only measure performance to accelerate the rate of improvement but also to make sure you plan accordingly and prepare thoroughly (measure twice) before taking action (cut once) within your organization.

Let me step back a minute. I'm getting ahead of myself.

Back to my original question: How well do you vet process improvements or changes before you make them? What factors come into play and become serious considerations when you make those decisions? Maybe that's a silly question, but you'd be amazed how often these things aren't thought through completely.

In a previous post, I wrote about the change management process. But before we can undertake this process, we really need to do our homework. We need to make sure the changes that we're about to make are the right ones, that they have the right effect and make the right impact, where and when it's important.

In that post, I outlined some of the things you need to do to execute your changes, to transition to some desired future state. But as we think about that transition, what else should we do? What other guidelines should we adhere to? Well, measure twice, cut once reminds us of a few things. Since measure twice is all about the preparation, we should...
  • understand our customers
  • understand what they are trying to do
  • listen to customers
  • ask the right questions
  • measure the right things (take the time to identify the appropriate metrics and KPIs for your company)
  • measure what matters (to the customer)
  • analyze thoroughly (but not to the point of over-analyzing)
  • make changes that matter (to the customer)
  • think before we act
  • not rush into things
  • plan ahead to minimize waste and to save time (haste makes waste)
  • prepare thoroughly
  • be informed (to make informed decisions)
  • think about issues that might arise (conduct a pre-mortem)
  • clarify expectations about outcomes
  • consider all constituents
  • pay attention to details
  • not take shortcuts
  • proofread or QA
  • test our hypotheses
I know that’s a lot to do and some are likely duplicate ways of saying the same thing, but as Ben Franklin said: take time for all things; great haste makes great waste. Take the time to do things right – or take the time to do them over. Your choice. We want to make sure that when we make changes to policies, processes, the organization, or the customer experience we don’t inadvertently introduce more waste and inefficiencies.

There’s definitely a trade-off between speed and accuracy, and there’s also a difference between speed and urgency. We don’t want to delay any important improvements, and yet we certainly want to convey the need for change. But, at the same time, we want to do the right thing and do things right. You’ll find that balance as you outline the steps you’ll take to implement changes within your organization, whether you create your own process or use Dr. Kotter’s 8-Step Process that I mentioned in a previous post.

Does this mean we’ll always get it right, even when keeping all of this in mind? No, but that’s OK. It happens. But recognize and acknowledge it quickly. If, in the end, the change you made doesn’t work as anticipated, re-measure and recut. Adjust accordingly.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. -Abraham Lincoln

2 comments:

  1. I am very torn over your advice Annette. On the one hand I agree, organisations are complicated and their are a minefield of complexities that will result in your improvements failing. On the other hand however I am a great believer in testing and learning. Things are actually more complicated than all of out analysis will ever understand.

    So I think the solution is to analyse and test, but do it on a small scale and quickly.

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  2. I think we're probably saying the same thing... analyze, test, then execute. I like your point about starting on a small scale; if it works there, roll it out to the larger organization.

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