I originally wrote today’s post for CMSWire. It appeared on their site on September 12, 2022.
As customer experience professionals, the work you do to identify improvement opportunities and other initiatives to design and deliver a better experience requires you to build the business case and to help your executives prioritize those initiatives – because there are typically many improvements that need to be made.
I’m often asked about tools to facilitate those decisions. I’ve come across a few of them over the years. I’ll share those first and then add one more that I recently came across.
Collaborative Planning Process
Back in 1997, the U.S. Army developed a seven-step process called the Military Decision-Making Process, which was designed to help teams develop, integrate, and synchronize their plans in order to prepare for success in dynamic environments. David Robinson wrote in Chief Executive magazine that he adapted the military’s process and created one called Collaborative Planning Process. What struck me about that process was this: he created a deliberate decision-making checklist that consists of seven questions:
- Is this a decision that I need to make now?
- Did I consider the strategic context, including realistic constraints?
- Did I get the right people with the right expertise in the room?
- Did I accurately frame the issue and encourage rigorous debate?
- Did I collect all of the relevant facts and consider all aspects of the issue?
- Did I identify and appropriately weigh the risks and opportunities?
- Do I feel enough conviction to be decisive and explain why I made the decision?
I think these are all fair questions for you to ask before you present your ideas and improvement initiatives to your executive team.
RICE Scoring Model
Developed by Intercom specifically for product managers, the RICE Scoring Model is used to prioritize the various projects and ideas that come across their desks. What do you start with first? It’s simple and straightforward, and it’s a great approach for customer experience professionals to use, as well.
RICE takes four factors – Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort – and translates them into a score to help with prioritization.
- Reach is the number of people it will impact in a given time period, e.g., customers per year.
- Impact is just that, how much it will impact each person, e.g., increase in satisfaction, increased adoption.
- Confidence is confidence in your data, your numbers, and is reported as a percentage that also falls into High (100%), M (80%), or L (50%) classifications.
- Effort is time required (person months) from all involved in the initiative.
To calculate the score, you’ll multiply Reach x Impact x Confidence and then divide that by Effort.
The Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix is a time-management tool that helps you to both prioritize and make decisions about the work that needs to be done. The matrix is based on how President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as a general in the United States Army and as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II, made decisions about the many tasks he had to focus on every day. His philosophy was that we should be spending time on things that are not only urgent (require immediate attention) but also important (advance us toward our goals/outcomes).
The two-by-two matrix has urgency (urgent/not urgent) on the x-axis, while the y-axis captures importance (important/not important). Start by creating a list of all of your initiatives. Then define how you’re going to determine importance and urgency. What factors will you consider as you put the task into buckets? That’s really at the crux of the exercise, so take time to do this right. You might include factors that I advocate considering:
Regardless, impact on the customer should always be a consideration.
- cost to fix
- time to fix
- effort to fix
- resources required to fix
- impact on the business
- impact on the customer, as well as:
- type of customers impacted
- volume of customers impacted
Plot those initiatives on the matrix. Those things that are urgent and important should be done first. Delegate those things that are urgent but not important. Schedule those things that are important but not urgent. And, finally, don’t do the things that are not urgent and not important.
Drucker’s Five-Step Decision-Making Process
In Peter Drucker’s The Practice of Management, he devotes a chapter to decision making. He states that managers typically – and erroneously – focus on finding the right answer during the decision-making process rather than finding the right question. He also notes – rightly so – that the most difficult, yet critical, part of the process is to put into action whatever was decided.
His five-step decision-making process goes like this. I like that he made taking action a step in the process.
- Define the problem
- Analyze the problem
- Develop alternate solutions
- Decide upon the best solution
- Convert the decision into effective action
I mentioned that I would share the processes I was most familiar with first, and then I’d add one more that I recently came across. This is it: CATWOE Analysis.
According to Business Change Academy, “CATWOE Analysis is a technique for understanding a stakeholder’s perspective and the impact that this view will have on the direction of the business change.” It’s used to… “identify what it is that the business is trying to achieve, what the problem areas are, and how stakeholder perspectives affect the people involved in it.”
Having those perspectives allows this to be a powerful decision-making tool, providing a level of understanding (across all stakeholders) that guides the decision on what initiatives to move forward with or not.
CATWOE stands for:
- Customer: those who either benefit, or experience pain, when the experience or the business changes
- Actor: those who implement the changes
- Transformation: how the change impacts the business; processes and procedures that will be affected
- Worldview: the wider impact of the change and the issues/benefits it creates
- Owner: the stakeholder who takes ownership of the issue/initiative
- Environment: the rules and constraints that can impede or impact progress, e.g., legal, financial, competitive, and resource considerations
If you consider these six perspectives as you make decisions and prioritize improvement initiatives you’ll have a broader and more holistic awareness not only of potential constraints but also of the various stakeholders impacted by your decisions. That’s a powerful view to have, without a doubt.
These are five very different approaches to making decisions and prioritizing your improvement initiatives. Each comes at the problem with a very different approach. You may be able to adapt ideas from each one to ultimately come up with the best decision. Or try them all and see if you come up with the same answer or priorities with each one. Most importantly, use the one that best fits your scenario and the one that speaks to your audience, i.e., your executives.
When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. When you desire a consequence you had damned well better take the action that would create it. ~ Lois McMaster Bujold
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is now available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.
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