Opportunities

“Don’t look for opportunities to compare yourself to others, but look for opportunities to learn the best quality of every person you meet.” I wrote this down one day when I was a young manager at Nordstrom. I had created my own personal scorecard for how I was doing in my job – call it a checklist – that I used to review myself on a monthly basis. I am a super competitive person by nature, and I found after a while I was reviewing the performance of my peers, using my checklist. It was a way to push myself and at times, bolster my ego a bit.

I received a performance review from my boss Steve, who gave me feedback that I was perceived as arrogant by some of my peers. It was a tough conversation and I was taken aback, as I thought of myself differently. It took some time wrestling with the feedback to recognize that I had become so competitive that I had forgotten that my peers were on my team.

But the real turning point came for me a year or so later when I was talking with Jan, one of my mentors, about being happy. She is the pastor of a church and always seemed to be full of compliments and praise (she’s still that way today). In any event, she shared how much she enjoyed learning from people and how much she admired in them what she found most difficult for herself. I had the proverbial lightbulb moment – and realized that I need to start enjoying people instead of competing with them.

So, my advice is: “Look for the best in others, as it will bring out the best in you”.

Let’s go be great,
Brad

What’s In A Fitbit

Since receiving a Fitbit Charge 2 for my birthday, I’ve been wearing it every day for a month now, and I’m fascinated with what I’ve learned. The Charge Two tracks heart rate, sleep patterns, the number of steps taken, estimates the number of calories burned each day, and so much more. The device even reminds me to take time to breathe and focus on my mental health. Turns out, I am in pretty good shape – my Cardio Fitness Score is ‘Good’ given a score of 39, and when I make it to 39.6 I’ll graduate to ‘Very Good’. All in all, I make an effort to maintain my physical fitness by going to the gym 4 to 5 times a week, running and lifting weights.

However, now that I have all this data about my health, I feel compelled to make good use of it. For example, if I lose 14.2 lbs. and increase my cardio by 20%, I would achieve a score of ‘Excellent’ for Cardio fitness. I am currently training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon in March, so there is a good chance that I’ll meet my goals. The point, however, is that data and feedback loops give you the information you need to make better decisions and the necessary improvement toward your goals.

Over the last month, I’ve been working with the finance and project leadership teams to create a standard package of reports to share out to the entire company. The reporting package (not unlike a Fitbit) will provide each of you a monthly summary of Utilization, Billability, and Chargeability as well as summarizing by team and division the operating and performance metrics. We will be extending this to an account base view as well, so we can see revenue, profitability, and the overall employee satisfaction of the Tahzoo delivery team.

With this new feedback loop will come individual goals and opportunities for improvement. We are fortunate to have tremendous market opportunities… but we need to be better stewards of our business and ensure that we are profitable and growing at the same time. For some of you this will be an adjustment, as I will be expecting everyone to make their targets, and more importantly, to show improvement in efficiency over time. Traditionally we haven’t run Tahzoo by the numbers, but this is the road ahead for us. If we want to be a world-class Customer Experience Management agency, we’ll have to operate in a world-class manner.

I am excited about this new level of awareness – not only on a personal level but also for our business. I’ve written extensively about how we need to bring more rigor and quantitative thinking into our business; this reporting is the beginning of building this operational strength into the company. Over the next three weeks we will be rolling out the expectations and reporting package within the US business, and to the rest of the company in the following month. We have created a framework for each of you to meet with your manager to align on goals and expectations. As we roll this out, I’ll be looking for feedback from you through the Voice of the Culture survey.

Looking forward to starting 2017 with clear goals and expectations for all of us.

Thanks,
Brad

Feedback

Giving people feedback is one of the most important things we can do in our lives.

One of my favorite books is called The Last Lecture, written by Randy Pausch. For those of you who don’t know the story, after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis, Randy gives a lecture to his class which is a summary of his life lessons.

I want to share a quote from the book on the importance of feedback. The set up for the quote is that Randy had a very difficult coach and was recounting a conversation he had with an assistant coach…

“Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn’t he?” he said. I could barely muster a “yeah.” That’s a good thing,” the assistant told me. When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, it means they’ve given up on you.”

Shortly after I founded the company we started the voice of the culture survey. It was and is an important way to give feedback to me and others within the company. We publish the positive comments every week in the desk of Brad so that peer recognition remains a pillar of our culture. I review the feedback every week as part of my standard routine.

Internally we also have the thrive review process, monthly one on ones with your manager, Kudos alias, and the soon to be rolled out delivery lead feedback system. Externally, for customers and partners, we have the customer satisfaction survey, however, most customers vote with their wallet, and either the business is growing or declining.

If you care about your customer and you care about your employees, you’ll have a company worth caring about. As the first value of our company, this is the definition of success for me. If we do those two things well, the rest will take care of itself. I designed and implemented the feedback loops so I could understand how well we were doing toward our most important goal.

My feedback to you is that not enough people are participating in the voice of the culture survey. If you care about Tahzoo and you want to make the company a better place, then you’ll take the time to give feedback. Consistent and constructive feedback is one of the most important aspects of your job. The only way Tahzoo will be great is if each of us participates in making it great… so next time I say to ‘let’s go be great’, let me and your teammates know what we need to do to get there.

Measurement

How should I measure you? I have been working on how we make decisions at Tahzoo. I have spent the last couple of months observing the criteria around decision making at all levels in the company. It’s been an insightful and profound experience. I would like to share some of my insight with you and then ask that you share in the voice of the culture survey your thoughts on how I should measure your performance.

One of my favorite books is The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge, it is a great read on human systems and how our bias and behavior affect the outcome of organizations. Senge, who teaches at MIT, defined a field of work called systems thinking. If you aspire to run a large organization, it would be the first book that I would suggest you read. One of the points he makes is that the greater the distance between a decision and a result, the higher the likelihood that the outcome will be understood in a present-day context rather than as a result of the decision.

As humans, we all have a belief system that is the underpinning of our perception of an organization. “We are high growth company” or “our business development is weak”. These narratives guide our interpretation of events. So when we lose that big deal do you say… “They wouldn’t have been a good client for us” or “see I told you so, our marketing is terrible”?

When it comes to decision making and understanding the impact of our decisions, these inherent biases influence our ability to correctly evaluate if the result is a byproduct of our decision or circumstance. We tend to interpret events based on our belief system and then look for facts that support our perspective.

An easy example is when a CEO cuts sales and marketing expenses to meet financial targets and then two quarters later when the number of leads drops precipitously, his conclusion is that the global market is slowing rather than understand his decision to cut expenses is behind the decrease in demand.

When I make decisions I have a process that I use around the idea of unintended consequences. I have never made a decision in which I wasn’t certain about the outcome I wanted to achieve. So even if the plan is risky the outcome is clear… however as it turns out for all the effort spent on the understanding of the goal, the unintended consequences are the most problematic to deal with. I have written a number of compensation plans many of which, if they never encounter human beings or the real world they would have been brilliant. Salespeople will do what is in their economic best interest even if that doesn’t align with the organizational goals. KPIs always need to include a metric toward the collective success or individual achievement that will trump all. I’ve learned the hard way that deciding for any outcome is easy, thinking through and planning for the unintended outcome is hard.

This brings me to my next subject (although related) Qualitative and Quantitative decision making. Qualitative decision making is the subjective view of the circumstance and a Quantitative decision is the objective view of the circumstance. Think literature and math… With a qualitative bias, one examines the current circumstance and makes a decision based on the immediate evidence and facts that are available. With a quantitative bias, one reviews the available and historical data and make the decision accordingly. The shorthand for this is that a qualitative bias gives you agility and quantitative bias gives you certainty.

Tahzoo US operates on a qualitative model and Tahzoo EU operates on a quantitative model, that’s not to say there are not elements of both but there are numerous examples of how these biases govern expectations and decision making. Every organization has a set of explicit and implicit rules, that guide behavior and provide a framework for how to work together. At the heart of our integration challenges are these differences in decision making and expectation. Consider the fact that in Tahzoo US, cultural fit is more important than an org chart or that in Tahzoo EU KPIs have been rolled out while in the US they have not.

It’s interesting, right? One part of the organization says to view the world and achievement in the context of today’s immediate need and the other in terms of the assigned KPIs. If you think through the range of complaints regarding our integration efforts, would this conceptual difference explain the many of the problems?

One of the reasons that I was excited about the mergers of our companies was the possibility of bringing both models together. I grew up (Nordstrom and Microsoft) in a very quantitatively led process. However, in the world of Customer Experience Management, the numbers don’t always rule… sometimes the zeitgeist and agility are imperative. So when I started building Tahzoo I eschewed numbers and reports, in favor of innovation and flexibility. We have two ambitions – figuring out how to help Fortune 500 companies improve their customer experience and to build a global CX agency. This means that we need to be good at both kinds of decision making and probably most importantly to know when to use which method for decision making… or at least be consciously aware of our biases.

Over the next quarter, I am going to focus on strengthening our quantitative decision making. I am working with my team to determine a baseline set of reports that are created and distributed throughout the company. One of the most important measurements is the individual metric; how do we measure and how do you understand your contribution to the success of the organization? If you could only have one measurement what would it be?

So the exercise for you; examine and as best as possible be aware of your biases. Next, begin to conceive of metrics that you could use to measure your contribution to the company. Make sure you consider qualitative and quantitative assessments. Then think about the timeframe of the measurement and the expected outcome. After that, if we structure a compensation model around that metric, what could be some of the unintended consequences?

This is both an exercise in critical thinking and I am also hoping to catch a few brilliant ideas about how to define and measure success at an individual level within Tahzoo. I’ll look forward to reading your commentary in the voice of the culture.

The Myth of A/B testing

“The journey is the reward” – Peter M. Senge 

The Myth of A/B Testing- Let us now praise famous data scientists 


Most websites are terrible at selling. As both a customer and as a consultant, I know it. You know it, too. The problem is two-fold. First, insulated by the law of large numbers, online marketers have gotten away with being terrible salespeople because of a failed thinking that if they churn through enough people, eventually some portion of them (usually a minute portion) will convert to customers. It’s a volume business. It’s also a totally expensive, inefficient, and ineffective way to market. 

 
The shotgun approach flowed out of the ancient art of direct mail and telemarketing in which scads of letters and carefully scripted phone calls would blanket the countryside in hopes of converting a few recipients into paying customers. In that world, a conversion rate of one percent—just one customer for every 100 letters or calls—would be thought a resounding success. Do you know any floor salesperson who would consider themselves successful if they converted just one of every 100 customers who came in their door? Exactly. Neither do I. 

 
Nonetheless, the direct marketing industry has thrived. To them, the concept of sophisticated data science was encapsulated in a technique known as A/B testing. A certain portion of the letters or call scripts were ever-so-slightly modified. They might have used different headlines, or different inducements on the envelopes to get you to open them, or the offer might have been tweaked. The marketers then waited to see which letters or calls performed better. In this world, a difference of a few hundredths of a percent was read as if oracles from heaven that one way of saying things was better at selling the product than the other. The phrasing that performed better in this simple, side-by-side comparison became the standard against which future words were tested. 
In the advertising world, this reality is reflected in the traditional frequency and reach data models that define the success of marketing campaigns by how many and how often people experience an advertisement, not how many of them convert to customers. These models were born in an era where the majority of people had fewer than ten channels on their televisions and a handful of brands from which to choose. Firms focused on brand marketing simply because channels and technology did not provide bandwidth for anything else. 

 
Accordingly, companies spend increasing sums on traditional marketing initiatives, only to experience diminishing returns on investment—they spent more and got less. Traditional campaigns struggled to connect with consumers, and, when they succeeded, very little real information was communicated.  Though the least-informed customer can pinpoint the problem, the self-appointed experts cannot articulate a cause. Let me tell you right now, the era of A/B testing was built on a myth. It is an incredibly unwieldy way to market. As I said above: it’s expensive, inefficient, and ineffective. I believe it’s ineffective because it treats audiences as monolithic. There’s no subtlety in the messaging, no ability to adapt to who the prospect is or what they are saying with unspoken language. On a sales floor or at a high-intensity sales pitch, the salesperson always reads the audience and adapts on the fly to the vibe of the customer. It is how selling gets done. I’ve done it a million times. (I’m doing it right now.) 

 
At Tahzoo, we believe that the era of A/B testing is over and that true data science and data-driven marketing is not only possible but critical to business success in today’s global marketplace. The maturation of both big data and content management technologies have reached such a level of sophistication that a new era of online selling is now entirely within reach. You’re witnessing our philosophy—the “Why” of Tahzoo—in action as we press our clients to get better at data science, to improve their technology infrastructures to prepare for personalized messaging in which the data we know about the prospect influences the content they see. You’re also seeing through acquisitions of cool technology such as Adnovate. 

 
So, forget A/B testing. The past is dead. The future is within reach. Our mission at Tahzoo is nothing short of changing the world of marketing through data and technology. Those disciplines have rung the death knell on that old era and marketers and marketing firms need to acknowledge they are no longer the sole gatekeepers of purchase-critical information. To effectively communicate—not merely to present—relevant and personalized content to drive consumer decision-making means that the floodgate to personalized content is opened, and firms must embrace it and invite consumers into a real and lasting conversation. When this happens—when marketing is truly aligned with customer needs—only then will customers be both engaged and educated. And that’s when great things can happen.