Measure Twice, Cut Once

It’s an old saying that probably everyone over the age of 25 has heard at least once in their lifetime. Essentially, it means take time in preparation to reap the benefits later. These four words prompted an interesting service discussion at a recent Optimal staff meeting.

In reviewing our organization’s best and worst service years (as determined by service credits), I found a distinct difference in preparation and process—in the “measurement” part. During the best service year, we comprehensively “measured” before we “cut” (acted) in the following ways:

  1. We slowed down. We took the time to thoroughly investigate all aspects of the problem before we designed a plan.
  2. We asked for help. In the extra time it took us to assess the situation, we were able to identify when we needed help—and to properly pull and allocate the resources to provide an effective solution.
  3. We were not concerned with solution ownership. No one was concerned with being the solution originator; instead everyone worked as a team and wanted to contribute to the solution’s successful implementation.

During our worst service year, I found that we were half-heartedly “measuring” and then cutting prematurely because we were:

  1. Not communicating. In an effort to speed up solutions, we were not adequately communicating with our team members to get a wider perspective.
  2. Trying to do more with less. People were trying to accomplish more in less time—and they were doing this at the expense of quality.
  3. Tenacity. While this is usually a favored trait, it can also be detrimental. During this high service credit year, staff would work on a challenge for a long time before asking a teammate for help, sacrificing valuable time and resources. In fact, we have a forward progress rule at Optimal that states that once you reach a point where you are no longer making forward progress, you ask for help. If not, you just begin spinning your wheels and wasting time. During this high service credit year, we had a lot of staff members not following the forward progress rule because they placed a lot of importance in solution ownership.

Service credits are inevitable in any given year. We are human and we make mistakes. And, because we are Optimalites, we take responsibility for those mistakes. But, whenever we have an excessive amount of service credits in one year, I’m forced to analyze the numbers and drill down into the situations that resulted in these credits. Inevitably, the cause is some variation of poor preparation—some case of not measuring before cutting—and it can affect everything from revenue to morale to referral patterns.

I want to know what you think. Post your response and check back for a reply.

  • How would you interpret "Measure Twice, Cut Once" in the service industry?
  • Do you have an example of an organization who measures half heartedly to its detriment? Or the reverse?

Topics: business, communication, customer service