God-Awful Art and Operational Measurement


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I am not bestowed with an artistic talent.

I can’t draw.

That is not a defeatist attitude, just (another) realisation that I am less than perfect.

At school I took art lessons. They were possibly the most painful hours in my life; my school friends would sketch away with alacrity creating images of great beauty whilst I busily produced waste paper.

I am truly dreadful.

I only learnt one thing in three years of art classes

Whilst appraising my woodland still life (sounds better than a stick) my art teacher frowned at my intricate bark pattern, then told me that I would be far better if I “took distance”, taking time to look at the whole thing and getting a sense of proportion instead of repeatedly drawing, erasing and redrawing the ridges of the bark.

Taking distance works for operations too

If you want to improve an operation then you have to measure performance. You need management information.

Unfortunately most M.I. is like my artwork:

  • It obsesses about the detail: call level customer satisfaction, handle time, abandon rate, average time to answer, hold time, wait time (you get the idea).
  • It doesn’t take distance and look at the bigger picture: why customers called and if they stayed as customers.

So if you want to improve on your art

Or at least improve your operation, then “take distance”. Draw out your full customer journey or process map or value chain (use jargon of choice) and overlay it with all the things you measure. Then ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • Where am I measuring the same thing over and over again?
  • Where have a got a gaping big hole where I am not measuring anything?

From a distance you might well see your operation in a totally different light.

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stand back and look

Read another opinion

Image by giulia forsythe

Republished with author's permission from original post.

James Lawther
James Lawther is a middle-aged middle manager. To reach this highly elevated position he has worked for many organisations, from supermarkets to tax collectors and has had multiple roles from running a night shift to doing operational research. He gets upset by operations that don't work and mildly apoplectic about poor customer service.


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