About those silver bullets

There is no scarcity of silver bullets for our business problems – every consultant or guru has one (or more).

It is about delighting your customers (or is it enchanting?)
It is the product design – simple and elegant wins.
It is the price.
It is about telling stories.
It is about customer loyalty.
Be remarkable. Be a linchpin. Be a remarkable purple linchpin that tells stories.

You can accept these solutions based on guru’s word (and brand) or question the relevance and credibility of the results their recipes promise. What type of questions? Questions not so different from what The Numbers Guy asks of effect of traffic cameras.

As red-light cameras have proliferated around the U.S. over the past two decades to hundreds of cities and towns, there is one troubling detail: They don’t always make traffic intersections safer.

Not so different from your business adopting and implementing one of the management fads. Here are some of the questions Numbers Guy raises and how these apply to the management silver bullet you are asked to adopt

  1. Simple before-and-after comparisons also won’t do, researchers say. For one thing, intersections typically are chosen for camera installation because they have had a spate of accidents. That makes them due for a fall just by statistical chance.

    The question you should ask is, was the improvement simply due to statistical chance?

  2. Counting rear-end crashes, for example, can sometimes mean the cameras increase the total number of accidents—as drivers slam on the brakes when they see a warning—though even an overall increase in collisions can be worthwhile, some researchers say, if the most severe crashes decline.

    The questions you should ask are, what was the metric and how was the data collected?

  3. “It is meaningless to study violations,” Barbara Langland Orban, an associate professor of health policy and management at the University of South Florida, wrote in an email. “Safety is measured in crashes, in particular injury crashes, and violations are not a proxy for injuries. Also, violations can be whatever number an agency chooses to report, which is called an ‘endogenous variable’ in research and not considered meaningful as the number can be manipulated. In contrast, injuries reflect the number of people who seek medical care, which cannot be manipulated by the reporting methods of jurisdictions.”

The questions you should ask is,  are you measuring the right thing? For example, what is the point of collecting responses to those 0-10 likely to recommend question if it has no relevance to your business?

Are you asking the right questions?