Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Loss to the Consulting Industry

There is sad news out of the consulting world. David Maister, consultant to the consultant, has reached the momentous decision to retire. Dr. Maister has spent the last three decades studying and counseling consulting firms. While I never did get a chance to see him speak in person, I have read his books. Managing the Professional Service Firm was always near at hand while I established my small consulting practice a few years ago. I am confident that his advice kept me from turning down many wrong paths.

For those interested, you can catch a glimpse of him in a few videocasts.

I wish him great success in his well-deserved retirement.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Murder by Numbers

The day before we disembarked from our ship, the cruise director emphasized just how important it is to complete our passenger questionnaires. Apparently, the cruise line's management places a great deal of weight on passengers' responses. Bonuses are decided. Promotions are offered. Staff is terminated. This cruise director even directed us to rate a feature as Exceeded Expectations when it didn't necessarily. After all, "the numeric rating for Exceeded Expectations is the range 100-75. A score of 75 translates to a grade of C in school. That doesn't seem right." The cruise director's ten-minute monologue was followed up by the same message supplied by the maitre d' after dinner.

I once worked for a company that placed a lot of emphasis on project scorecard ratings. Our San Francisco office always received 100% ratings. When our General Manager investigated this apparent success, clients revealed that the San Francisco Practice Manager was strong-arming the results. If ratings were anything below 100%, the Practice Manager would visit the client and talk the client into 100% scores. Unfortunately, metrics-based performance measures revealed little about the San Francisco office's performance and tended to sour business relationships with its clients.

I am all about performance measures. I believe in the ideal, that which is measured, improves. Gleb Reys' Personal Development blog provides some examples for those who would like to see this in action. However, basing performance solely on customer reviews can negate the customer experience. There must be a balance in the organization among customer/client feedback and other performance attributes. Have you ever seen the proper balance? If so, what does it look like?