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Continuous Improvement: A Process to Embrace

August 16, 2012

nlonsinger

Although continuous improvement may be an overused term – used frequently in business, in classrooms and on athletic fields – it’s a concept that I fully embrace. Too often I observe organizations set strategies, develop annual plans, execute tactics and wait until the next year’s planning cycle to attempt any type of program measurement. And then when they do measure, they don’t understand why the results are what they are.

When I was responsible for leading large marketing organizations, I habitually asked anyone who brought me a program recommendation, “How do you plan to measure this?” I looked for the response to include not only how program performance would be measured but also what information would be gathered to indicate why the program was performing as it was. Most frequently, staff members understood that quantitative data were necessary to measure performance, but they didn’t always realize that qualitative information as to the value a program was bringing our customers would provide indictors of changes that could improve the performance of the program.

This simple framework depicts in a darker shade the critical steps to continuous improvement that are all too frequently not included early in the launch of a new program.

Questions to ask yourself when thinking about a measurement plan include:

  • What are the (qualitative) leading indicators of success, and how can I collect that information?
  • What data are needed to measure performance of the program?
  • Can the program I am measuring be isolated from other market activities?
  • How long will it take for the program to have a measurable market impact?

My advice to anyone who will be approaching the market with “news,” be it a new promotional program or a product launch, is to embrace the concept of continuous improvement. Identifying early on what isn’t working for our customers is the most useful information we can gather because we can act upon it to make course corrections. Too often marketers don’t really want to know what customers think of the work we do, yet this information is absolutely vital to the performance of our work and the success of our organizations.

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