The Customer Sets the Target

W. Edwards Deming railed against using “arbitrary numerical goals” and there have been some concluding that targets are “always bad.”

I disagree that targets are always bad.

Arbitrary numbers are certainly an issue.  Unfortunately, they are a staple inside organizations of all kinds. Hit this financial number or this internally set target that fits nicely into achieving wanted levels of activity by misguided management.

However, you are talking about something completely different when a customer “wants it by tomorrow.”  This is a real target set by the customer and is not by any means arbitrary.  The main difference is an internal focus vs. an external focus.  The customer does not care if you hit your budget or activity targets, but they do care if you are able to deliver what is important to them.

The management paradox is that hitting customer targets always will help you achieve your financial targets and not vice versa.  Consider IT software, where meeting schedules and budgets have become the target . . . but customers want IT that works.  If you hit the schedule and budget and have IT that doesn’t work, what have you achieved?  How will this play when trying to attract new customers?  The sales pitch is we hit our schedules and budgets, but give you crappy software?

Targets are OK, you just need to understand who is setting them – you or the customer.  If the answer is anything but the customer, you are only fooling yourself.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it –  our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.”  Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist.  His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer.  The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience while improving culture and management effectiveness.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for Reach him on Twitter or LinkedIn

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