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.