Track Your Performance to Understand What Your Consumers Need – Part 1


Back in July, my first post as a Featured Blogger talked to how you can get more money for your program and have more early success just by releasing sooner. And while that is certainly half of the equation, the reality is you need to be releasing content that folks care about. I think this is kind of a no brainer, right? I mean, who releases content that nobody wants? I’ve written a lot of code in my lifetime, and someone has ALWAYS wanted my stuff. Ok, but, here’s the kicker. IT HAS GOT TO BE SOMEONE BESIDES YOU!

Let me expand on that, it has to be someone besides you, your friends and your family.  You’ve got to get out and capture actual, accurate feedback from actual users. It’s like, if you and your best friend still jam out to Nickleback, every time you’re in the car together you may think to yourself, “wow, EVERYBODY LOVES NICKLEBACK!” When more than likely, your friend hates Nickleback, like the rest of the world, and they are just playing along to make you feel better. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there.  The Nickleback of my house is Arby’s. I think the curly fries there are delicious; however, deep down, I think Erin probably agrees more with Jon Stewart.

Bottom line is, your friends, family, and colleagues are too close to you to give you the truth. They just are.  And that’s why you love them and keep them around and why they are such an important part of your life. However, since they are invested in you in a personal or professional manner, if you are looking for honest feedback, they aren’t the best sounding board. So what’s a product owner to do? Well, for me, I turn to the words of Eric Ries.

Eric Ries is the author of the book “The Lean Startup,” and it is quickly becoming my gospel for all things project management.  He talks about employing agile and lean methodologies (and if you are confused about the difference, please read Nicole Johnson’s post here on GovLoop about How to Know if You’re Really Lean and Agile), but his true brilliance lies in what he calls The Lean Startup Process. In The Lean Startup Process, he talks about the Build – Measure – Learn feedback loop.

This loop is built into every deployment of every software build that he pushes. It is built into every business process he implements. Everything that Eric and his team does is measured and quantified. Want to know whether that new HR policy from three months ago is working? Check the numbers. Want to know what effect having beer in the conference room has had on productivity? Bring your calculator; we have the data. Everything they do is implemented scientifically – manipulating one variable at a time to see what effect that variable has on the ecosystem – and quantified to see if that change is a net positive (which results in the change being  kept) or net negative (the change is removed).

And the underlying principle is really that simple. Now, it gets more complex in practice because you need to understand your business. You and other leaders need to identify your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and determine what metrics most accurately allow you to measure those. But that is different for every organization. It is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  Effective leadership teams set themselves apart by being smart, reading the industry, and being able to adapt to an ever-evolving client base.

Sound off in the comments readers.  Does this make sense?  Does your organization employ a similar approach?  And check back next week for Part 2 where I discuss methods to employ the Build -> Measure -> Learn process using a combination of agile (and lean) manufacturing, and A/B testing.

Until next week GovLoopers. Get out and enjoy Labor Day.  Hope you are spending it with loved ones, either by the grill or by the ocean. And if you have any food left over, give me a call.  I’m happy to help…

Steve Palmer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Terrence Hill

I agree that it’s critical to capture customer feedback in any performance management system. Without this loop, you are missing a critical perspective. One of the many reasons why the current performance management system is dysfunctional.

Brenda Dennis

Darn, you mean my family isn’t really the customer??? Thanks for a great article and I’ll save a Labor Day hotdog for you!