I’ve seen the following scenario play out many times.

  1. Someone has a great idea
  2. The great idea gets approved
  3. People work on the great idea
  4. The great idea gets implemented
  5. The people in charge want to know if the great idea ended up actually being a great idea
  6. The data people get asked to help answer if this is indeed a great idea

Measuring if an initiative or project was successful can be hard enough, however it is made more challenging if the measurement conversation occurs after the fact, rather than before its implemented.  While starting a measurement conversation after implantation doesn’t mean measurement is impossible, it can limit the quality of the measurement.  This translates to being less confident about our answer to if the great idea was in fact a great idea.

In general, the best time to start talking about measurement is at the same time you’re discussing the other details of the project.  However, I know that isn’t always possible, so the best rule of thumb is the earlier the better.

Why is Earlier Better?

Having more options is (usually) better than having fewer options.  The earlier the process measurement conversations start, the more opportunity there will be to make a decision in one way or another that allows the measurement to be more accurate.  Here is an example to help illustrate this point.

Your company is launching a new loyalty program for its customers.  There are currently concerns about the benefit of the existing program, so the company’s leaders have given approval to launch a new program.  The team in charge does a ton of great research on best practices on programs, finding features that benefit both the customer and the company.  The new programs gets rolled out to all customers on the current program.  Unfortunately, the measurement conversation wasn’t a major emphasis, so the plan was to measure sales per customer to determine if this program was better than its predecessor.  Even more unfortunately, at the same time this new program was being rolled out, a global pandemic impacts your company’s sales.  How are you supposed to know if the new loyalty program is better than the last?

Since the measurement was a bit of an after thought in the above scenario, a change in sales made it difficult (or impossible) to accurately measure the new program compared to the old program.  Had measurement been a larger part of the conversation while the program was being developed, it could have been suggested to only roll out the new loyalty program to a random 50% of customers on the existing loyalty program.  Sparring you the details of exactly how this is better, this would have allowed to get an answer to if the new program is better than the old, even in the wake of a global pandemic!

The purpose of measuring things is to have better information to make decisions on, which is why this is important!

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