As a business owner you have thousands of opportunities every day to improve your sales, leads, prospects, manager effectiveness, employee productivity, profitability, safety…you name it. Some of these might be the key to success and some of them might be a waste of time. We’ve all been there: an ad, program or service that touches just the right note or pain point we’re feeling and convinces us that THIS ONE THING will solve our problems! Maybe the ‘constant drip’ of cleverly crafted emails finally reaches the tipping point, that free webinar just grabs you, or that vendor calls you right as you’re experiencing the same problem AGAIN – and before you know it you’ve purchased a solution.
None of us are stupid, so when we make the decision to buy it’s either because we are convinced that it will work, or we’re so tired of the problem that we’re willing to take a chance on something we’re not convinced about ‘just in case’. I’ve been there-done that more times than I can count. Sometimes it’s been the best thing I’ve ever purchased and sometimes I’m left feeling like an idiot who was complicit in my fleecing.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking these forms of marketing. When you have an awesome product or service of course you want to tell people about it! But as a buyer, how can you determine if you should buy it, or once you have, if it was worth it?
One thing I’ve noticed as both an Organizational Development executive, Business Coach, AND Entrepreneur, is that there is a preponderance of solutions that, while they sound great, do not offer a lot in the way of guarantees. The biggest problem with most of these solutions is that they are necessary, but not sufficient, components of change. Taken in the wrong context they are unlikely to achieve the results you’re paying for, but it’s hard to see that because they just make so much sense!
• Tired of employee turnover? Increase engagement with roundtable meetings!
• Want higher productivity? Improve your line managers’ communication skills!
• Need less injuries? Have more safety meetings!
• Want this, that, or the other? Training, training, training!
Now, I’m overgeneralizing to make a point, but you get the idea. Here’s the irony – I AM a coach, I AM a leadership trainer and I love training people in communication skills! HOWEVER…I am diligent about explaining the role of training in behavioral change, and the inadequacy of training alone in creating sustained change. It’s not that I enjoy complicating marbles (much), it’s just that right out of school I was mentored by a pioneer in the applied behavioral sciences field. Because he was a professor, he made sure I was rock solid on a few key concepts before he set me loose in any organizations and some of the major premises that were ground into my SOUL were:
- Results happen when the right behaviors occur at the right time with the right frequency.
- There are very predictable laws as to what interventions lead to more behaviors, less behaviors or no change.
- You need to measure something to understand where you’re starting so that you can determine the effect of your interventions.
- Everything is measurable and if you’re spending money on it, you’d better be able to quantify it.
This holds true no matter what your industry. Whenever we’d go to a convention or organization to talk about how to get increases in performance people would listen and then say ‘that sounds great, but you can’t measure what we do’. But we could, and we did.
Because we were essentially conducting experiments, we had to measure the baseline as well as the effects on any intervention we introduced. For any business owner, the immediate takeaway is that:
- Before buying ANYTHING to ‘increase performance’, figure out how to objectively determine where you are NOW. Get a baseline and do not spend money until you know where that baseline is. Distill it down to the individual level as much as possible (You can learn more about that on my free download).
- After applying the intervention (training/tool/meeting/whatever) measure again. What was the effect directly after the intervention? This will tell you if there was any short-term effect. Then measure again after several weeks.
Even though years of applied research definitely declares that training has only a moderate short term effect on performance, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t measure it. That’s better than NO impact, right? And if you’re investing in a more comprehensive system or tool, you will absolutely want to measure performance and results on an ongoing basis. If it’s an awesome system, you’ll be gratified to see the continual results and you will quickly become aware when it’s time to change it up a bit. If it is having no effect, you’re going to want to find out soon, and hopefully get your money back. If that’s not an option, you’ll at least know and either tweak things or mitigate the time and money on the system.
At the end of the day, you’ve worked too hard to waste money on solutions that don’t solve anything. You deserve to know how solutions are working, and the only way to do that is to get a performance baseline first!
Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on helping organizations, leaders and job seekers to identify workplace solutions that work. As a certified executive coach, organizational development expert and resume writer, Carrie consults with small to medium sized businesses on OD, human resources and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. Carrie can be reached for consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org