Anecdotes and Damn Lies – Just the Facts Please

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about the Disconnect Found Between CEOs and Top Officers in yesterday’s paper. (Need to have a subscritpion to access the online article.) How many of you find that especially surprising?

According to the article, CEOs have a far different perspective of what they think employees including C-level officers want and what those employees really want. How many of those CEOs actually have a process in place that encourages conversation that would reveal the true opinions of their employees. The root cause for the disconnect is the lack of fact-based management processes.

The same thing happens when companies assume they know what customers want. The senior leaders and managers take anecdotal conversations, take the parts of those conversations that support what they already thought and decide they know what customers need. Few companies gather all of the information that’s needed to develop a true fact-based picture of customers. The information should be obtained from current, former, and potential customers as well as competitors customers. The process for gathering the information should also include measures of both customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. All of the characteristics are part of the Customer Focus category questions in the Baldrige criteria.

You have to develop ways that you listen and learn from both customers and employees. The ways you gather information have to work consistently and you have to actually analyze what you learn. If your mind was made up already then why bother asking? That was the problem identified in the article. Right?

Anecdotes whether from customers or from employees make for horrible decision making tools. Facts are far and away harder to find but will make for far and away better decisions.

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