Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pairwise Ranking - the forgotten tool

Pairwise ranking is a tool that was once included in the Coast Guard Performance Improvement Guide (PIG*). As the PIG grew this tool was removed partly for space concerns and partly because there are other prioritization tools included.

Pairwise ranking is a method for listing a small number of items/options in priority order. It can help you:
·         Make decisions in a consensus-oriented manner
·         Promote discussions of items in a head-to-head manner
·         Further discuss and decide among the top options (breaking ties) resulting from another prioritization tool such as a Muti-Vote

How to use it:

Discuss the choices. Ensure a common understanding of all items represented. One method to accomplish this is to have a subject matter expert address each option.

Letter the choices. This makes tabulating the votes easier and counting less confusing.

Construct a pairwise matrix.  Each box in the matrix represents the pairing of two items (the choice shown at top of the column compared to the choice shown at left of the row).  If your list has five items, the pairwise matrix would look like the one below, with the top box representing option A paired with option B:

Note: Each progressively longer row is labeled with the second through the last choice. Each progressively shorter column is labeled with the first through the next to last choice.

Rank each pair. For each pair, have the group (using a consensus-oriented discussion) determine which of the two ideas is preferred. Then, for each pair, write the letter of the preferable idea in the appropriate box. Repeat this process until the matrix is filled in.

Count the number of times each alternative appears in the matrix.

Rank all items. Rank the alternatives by the total number of times they appear in the matrix. Where two ideas appear the same number of times, look at the box in which those two ideas are compared. The idea appearing in that box receives the higher ranking.

Jeff Wright

*The Coast Guard PIG is not copy written and available electronically. You can download a copy from


Friday, February 13, 2015

Measurement is over-rated

Most people working in the Quality/Performance arena are familiar with Dr. Deming and his famous question “how do you know?” This question is designed to illustrate or even prompt people to identify a measure.

In the title I say that measurement is over-rated but how do I know? More importantly, to what degree is it over rated. Would I be safe saying "measurement is vastly over rated" or would it be more accurate to say "measurement is minimally over rated". On a scale of 1 to 10, would it be a 5 an 8 or just a 3. Just how do you measure measurement anyway?

Before going on let me make it clear that I simply don’t know for sure, but that’s not going to stop me from giving an opinion. I know measurement is over-rated because of the people I have talked to and the amount of truly actionable measurement results that I've seen. Other indicators include the blank stares on the faces of people being force fed measurement in large doses either by books or consultants as well as the comments heard from those who have repeatedly measured something only to see those results go into a report which serves exclusively as an executive dust magnet. An instruction given to the group of internal consultants that I was once part of made reference to consultants “selling” measurement. The concept of measurement should not need to be sold. A well rounded leader wants to measure in order to maintain or even improve the desired level of performance.

Returning to the original question, by how much is measurement over rated? To this I have to step back and admit "not as much as I may think". Measurement clearly has a purpose and should simultaneously hold a level of importance in many different areas within every organization. While there are really only a couple of truly valid reasons to measure something, I must acknowledge that a lot of what currently is being measured at organizations legitimately falls under one of those headings.

There are really only two reasons to measure anything; first to indicate progress toward a goal, and second to make a decision. “Mandates” has been suggested as a possible third reason for measuring especially within a military culture, “we are measuring that only because command says so”, but at some higher level, whatever is being measured must fit into one of the two legitimate reasons or else time is being wasted. Accountability was once stated as another reason to measure and indeed accountability is very important and often overlooked, however it's also not something that should stand on its own. Someone should not be accountable just so they can be congratulated or punished (although that happens, often) but accountability really needs to be tied to something, usually progress or performance (either overall or project specific) with the connection being very clearly pointed out. If either progress or performance is not related to a certain goal, is there really any point?

I once mentioned to an organization, which regularly published a wonderfully usable progress report, these two valid reasons for measuring. I followed up my comments by suggesting that if the organization had a measure that did not fit one of the two valid purposes that the leaders may want to consider getting rid of it and using the time savings elsewhere. Shortly after my vist, some changes were made, measurement activity reduced, and a signifficant amount of time was freed up for operations while the organization still had the information needed to publish their wonderfully usable progress report.

Perhaps some readers may be familiar with the following concept. During a measurement class, the story was told of an organization that was spending a considerable amount of time preparing numerous lengthy reports. Consultants were called in to help this particular organization use their time more effectively. The consultants suggested that a heading be placed on top of every report form stating "the purpose of this report is ________". The organization did this and discovered that as they filled out the section, that the purpose of certain reports was either stupid or duplicated and the report could just be eliminated.

What if this same technique were used with measures? What if, prior to considering a new measure, the purpose question was asked? If the answer does not fit in to one of the legitimate reasons to measure, perhaps it's not the best place to spend time and effort.

Everyone should understand reason for measuring #1, “measuring progress toward a goal”. This is what it's all about, to do the work that goes into achieving a goal, of any type. Our goals should support those of the unit or division, and those goals should support those of the organization. Even an organizations goals need to support something higher, perhaps a those of a board of directors, stake/stock holders, maybe even a vision that involves serving customers.

A good story to describe reason for measuring #2, “to make a decision” came from my experience as an internal consultant for a military organization. This example involved airplanes. For each mission airmen were asked to measure, record and report the amount of cargo carried in their aircraft. Some did not do so but at the same time complained that their aircraft was too small and they were often pushed beyond capacity. What they did not understand is that headquarters was using the measurement information to make decisions about aircraft replacement. Those locations that reported a cargo measurement indicating that they were frequently overloaded were put on a list to get a bigger and better aircraft.

To put a cap on understanding this whole measurement thing, a big “ah-ha” came for me while attending a conference called "Quest for Excellence". One of the speakers equated measurement to communication in a way that struck a chord. I've always been a huge proponent of the theory that all problems can be attributed to communication. There are times when it's more appropriate to think of “interaction” as opposed to “communication”. Even problems that come up in the area of mechanics are due to action-reaction or influence-response, this relates to communication closely enough for me to be able to attribute all problems to communication.

Back to business, how does the boss or the staff communicate operating status, either internally or externally, unless there is a measurement? How can the boss or staff, communicate, either internally or externally, if or how an organization is progressing? The communication of measurement can be between the system and you (yes a system can communicate with you once indicators are identified) or between you and others.

Consider the charts and graphs in an executive summery. Some of that measurement is telling the leader what he or she needs to know, does it all? Measurement is about communication and only about communication, it is not only the “How” to the “How do I know” but to the “How do I let you know”.

Jeff Wright
Measurement is over-rated

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Spirit to Serve - Marriott's Way

 Review by: Jeff Wright

I had seen the red and white paperback in hotel night stand drawers many times before but on one particular trip several years ago I decided to take the time to open it and begin reading. It was longer then the newer version I have seen in Marriott hotels since, this book was longer then I could read on the short business trip so I asked and received permission to take it home with me. This little volume was packed with Marriott history and stories describing the Marriott way of doing business. The book was good enough that it found a home on the library shelves of the professional development library at work. The lessons are transferable so the following short summary was written and distributed to colleagues (fellow consultants) so they could benefit from the “The Spirit to Serve - Marriott’s Way”.

This book discusses the Marriott’s philosophy and how important it has proven in building organizational success. The Marriott empire had its share of hard times and is not perfect, but it has indeed been able to deal rather effectively with the hurdles that have been faced. Marriott has never directly won a “Baldrige National Quality Award” for performance excellence, but it appears from this book that they certainly could meet the stringent requirements. Ritz Carlton hotels, owned by Marriott, has won a Baldrige award in large part because of doing business the Marriott way.

A quote from Jim Collins, bestselling author of “Good to Great”, illustrates the axis on which the Marriott world turns; he says

There can be no distinction between a company’s core values and the core values of its leadership”.

As each of us considers how this statement relates to our own world of work, we must ask ourselves if our respective organization’s core values are internalized within its leaders.   

I would like to highlight another quote from the first pages of the opening section of Marriott’s book that describes some of the activities and progression that are so important to Marriott and other successful organizations.

Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there”.
Will Rogers

The Marriott’s opened their first business, an A&W franchise in Washington DC, in 1927. Later, hot food was introduced and the term “Hot Shoppe” was adopted, in time other locations were added. The following story is told by Bill Marriott Jr.

Back in the heyday of Hot Shoppes, the daily menu had more then 300 items on it. My Father insisted that every selection be available--and fresh--at all times. Naturally, this is virtually impossible in the restaurant business, but Dad would not hear otherwise. If he went into a Hot Shoppe and they were out of something, he’d raise the roof. After a few such instances, the managers took matters into their own hands. When my Dad showed up at a shop and ordered something that was not available, the kitchen would call the next nearest Hot Shoppe to see if they had it. If they did, runners from the two restaurants would meet in the middle to rush the order back to my unsuspecting father”.

In 1929 Hot Shoppes Inc. was formed and Marriott stepped into the airline catering business. Following several years of growth, in 1955 Marriott opened their first motor hotel beginning the enterprise that exists now. Over the years there have been hurdles, division of product lines, the buying of new companies and selling of less profitable ones. They even took a shot at theme parks with a Marriott’s Great America Park in Illinois and one in Santa Clara, CA. but eventually the parks were bought by Paramount. Marriott took some time testing the waters in other businesses but eventually decided to stick with those things that it does best. Regarding sales, Bill Marriott says

what we’re really selling is our expertise in managing the process that makes those sales possible. And that expertise rests firmly on our mastery of thousands of operational details.”

Initially Marriott owned most of its hotels and earned a solid reputation for smooth operations and exceptional service. Marriott now focuses on hotel branding and management with many properties being owned independently. The book I read is several years old but as of the late 80’s Marriott managed 7% of all hotel rooms in north America and 2% in the world, however, Marriott owned just 1 in 10 of those rooms. There has obviously been incredible growth since then. The percentage of hotel rooms managed by Marriott has grown significantly, and there has certainly been an increase in the number of properties that they own.

Marriott does a phenomenal job with the aspects in Baldrige category 5, which is titled “Workforce Focus”.

As important as companywide recognition programs are, it’s even more critical to make associate appreciation a daily, ongoing, bone-deep philosophy
- Bill Marriott Jr.

Large customer based operations, like hotels, have very large support operations that go on behind the scenes, Marriott refers to the location of this support as “the heart of the house”.

Every Marriott property has its own way of thanking and recognizing associates, but one of my favorites is the Hospitality Gold Star program at one of our vacation resorts. Each week, three guests are selected at random and asked to identify the Marriott associate who has been most helpful during their stay. Each guest receives a beach towel as a gift for helping out. The associates who are identified by the guests receive a monetary award, plus gold stars to wear on their uniforms. Simple enough, right? But there’s a twist. The three winning associates are then asked to identify three associates in the heart of the house who have been most helpful to them during the week. That trio of associates likewise receives monetary awards and gold stars. Why the second round of awards? The GM at the property knows that the folks on the front lines could not do their jobs and win guest plaudits and gold stars without the support of the people working behind the scenes. The second three awards make sure that heart of the house contributions don’t go unrecognized or unrewarded simply because they’re invisible to most guests

The description of the “Hospitality Gold Star Program” exemplifies the overall message of this book. The sprit to serve is not just about serving customers, it also includes a critical element of positive leadership, serving those who serve the customers.


Jeff Wright

ref: The Spirit to Serve – Marriott’s Way
J.W. Marriott, Jr., and Kathi Ann Brown
Marriott's Way PDF