Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Are you “burgers up”?

I’ve been meaning to write this story up for a while now since it’s a story both about my son Jake and about the importance of metrics in product management or any job for that matter. When I worked at Microsoft I learned a lot about metrics. As a product manager my life revolved around metrics:
  • How much is Active Directory used by your customers Jackson?
  • Is Active Directory full deployed Jackson?
  • Which segments (small, medium, large) of companies have deployed Active Directory and to what extent?
  • What percentage of our customers are still using Novell eDirectory?
All of these metrics were state or discrete metrics – they were based at a moment in time. Then we had metrics related to every marketing spend. If I wanted to spend money to help raise awareness of how great Active Directory was or to help migrate customers from Novell’s eDirectory to Active Directory I needed to walk into a meeting with my current metric, how much the spend was and how much the spend would change the metric. I wasn’t allowed to spend a dollar unless I knew my current metrics and how the spend was going to affect that metric. How does this relate to my son Jake? Well…

My son Jake – he’s 18 - has been happily working in Southern California for In-n-Out Burger. Anyone who has ever tasted an In-n-Out burger knows how good they are and why they are so popular. A couple of months ago I was out to dinner with Jake after he had just finished some additional training with In-n-Out. While talking about the training I asked Jake how his store was doing generally. I expected him to say something like “Real good Dad” or “We’re really busy Dad”. Instead, he responded “We’re the #3 store in the area Dad and #26 nationally!”. Wow. Wow not just because this sounded great but also wow that he was aware of that. I decided to ask a few more questions:

Me: Do you track how many burgers you sell each day?
Jake: Yes. Today we were 243 “burgers up”.
Me: What does that mean?
Jake: It means we sold 243 more burgers today than we did on this day last year.

I was pretty surprised to find out how well versed in metrics Jake was (and still is). I think this is a testimony to In-n-Out Burger because having your workers understand the metrics that the store – and other stores – are being goaled on helps them to all work harder. After all, no one wants to be “burgers down”.

No matter what we do in our jobs it is pretty important to know your metrics, how to measure any money spent to affect those metrics and what your overall goals are and how you will measure them. We all want to be “burgers up” with our salaries. The same goes for our efforts in our job. You need metrics to help achieve your goals.

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