Sunday, February 18, 2007

Talk to the competitive in people

Talk to the competitive in people when you build software. Let people compete against themselves or others if it makes sense at all. Ask yourself if your software handles something that can be measured, for instance time on data entry, and whether it makes sense to measure.

What can be measured?
Time and money are usually easy to measure and compare. You can measure the time it takes to complete a task or the amount of money someone has spend or earned.

What makes sense to measure?
Will you application be used in an environment where people care about what you can measure? Call center software is a great example. Usually the goal of management is for each call to take as little time as possible, if however you take that mentality to say an in-house call center where it is more important that the calling employee is completely unblocked than the number of calls processed per employee, then you may screw the dynamics in the wrong direction. If you reward high throughput, in your software, then that will produce high throughput behavior and that may not be what the business want.

But if your application will be used in an environment where measurements are valued, then your software should support it.

Call centers, sales applications, data entry applications, and fitness programs are obvious candidates for showing how you perform against your targets, against your previous performance and your colleagues' performance. Point of sale applications is another area where it makes perfect sense to emphasize corporate procedures/politics. Harvard business review had an article in the Winter 06 edition about great managers. One of the examples was from a Walgreens shop. Apparently employees are rewarded based on a 'Suggestive selling program'. Basically Walgreens focuses on a few items, put them near the cashier, and when you are about to pay, they ask you if you also want one of those items. If you end up buying it, they are rewarded on that extra sale. Here is an opportunity to help the employees remember how well they are doing against others and themselves. Let them see how much they have sold, how much the average employee have sold etc. Help them remember, help them focus, and help corporate strategy blossom though talking to the competitive in each of those cashiers.

It is all about talking to the basic human instincts.

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