Monday, July 20, 2009

Ain't doing it right

"How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four; calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg." (ascribed to Abraham Lincoln)

In our business, to make a good decision, it is essential to know what really happned. So we discussed finding the single source of truth, but have not discussed ways for keeping it truthful. Oddly enough, the concept of immediate, detailed feedback is not as common as one would expect.

In your community of domain experts, the concept of "truth" should not only be determined but also enforced by members of the community. Note: not by a moderator; the members must know what the "truth" is (in procedures, in decisions and in deriving conclusions) but also be ready and empowered to call out their and others' mistakes. Because direct feedback is what enforces people to improve in the specific of their work. You do not only need people who can tell a tail from a leg - you need to give the one who detects it the means to show their finding to the general community.

This is not a matter of virtue, it's a matter of getting your business runnig the way it should. What happens if you under develop this area in your organization? Well, first you get only hindsight feedback, allowing you to know what's happening in delays of months and months (how much time does it take 90% of chargebacks to come in? exactly), but you also get feedback in aggregate levels (saying, for example, how many of person X's decisions were reversed) - meaning that you can't really find the trend and fix it.

I can't tell you it's fun - commenting, moderating or acting on the results of such feedback cycles - but one thing's for sure, it's way more effective than pretending your Risk experts live in DisneyLand. Giving and receiving proper feedback improves every bit of the cycle - and makes your business better at one of its core competencies.

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