when bad is good

October 31, 2008 at 7:42 am | Posted in Business, Professional Development | Leave a comment
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Pop Quiz.  You’re the manager over the following situation:

  • Objective: Maintain maximum number of product downloads.
  • History: Product downloads have increased 10% each month for the past year.
  • Action: Change methodology that has been in place for the past year and measure for 6 months.
  • Result: Downloads have decreased by 5% each month for the past six months.

Easy one, right?  Fire the person who ran that campaign!  But in the words of Lee Corso on College Gameday: “Not so fast, my friend.” The answer should be: “I don’t have near enough information.”

What if the result of continuing the current plan would have resulted in a 20% drop instead of 5%?  If that were the case, then although things got “worse” they were actually “better” than what could have been.  Ah, but now you’re dealing with “hypotheticals” as our presidential candidates have become fond of saying. But business is often about hypothetical situations and trying to maximize or mitigate them.

Before you make a risky change, you should do all you can to build consensus from folks after you explain the risks of doing nothing, and of making the change.  Even then, you’re likely to get some (or most) people pointing at the raw data and calling it a failure.  But part of your job should be to do everything you can to ensure that doesn’t happen.  It takes a lot of guts to do that because it’s easier to just do nothing, play it safe, and hope for the best.  But as it’s been said many times, “hope is not a plan.”  So be aggressive, but do it in a way that mitigates surprise reactions to raw data that you know may seem unflattering at first glance.

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