Its just an experiment - experiments in practice

· October 31, 2014

At my current client we’re starting to work with improvements, as I wrote about before. The things I talk about in that post is small changes, but bigger things we handle on separate lines. For now. That might change.

Today I tried to introduce an idea of experimenting to the team. Let me walk you through it, because I found that by just changing the language a little bit, we got a much better understanding and reduced anxiety. Also I think they all like it.

We are trying to bring our profitability up and hence try to find new ways to serve more customers. In this case there was a suggestion to prolong the opening hours for one department to 1900 on weekdays and keep it open on Sundays too. It’s now closing at 1400 and is not open at all on Sundays.

(Ok, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. Of course we should open it. But it serves as a good example).

I simply changed my vocabulary when we spoke about this and the difference in the reception was profound.

Me: “Let’s try this as an experiment. We call it: Trying to keep department X open longer I added that name on the whiteboard.

Me: “What is the definition of the experiment?” They: “Huh?” Me: “Ah, well… what are we doing in the experiment?” They: “Well.. we’re keeping department X open till 19 on every day. Including Sundays” I wrote that done.

Me: “What do we need to do to get this going?” They: “Create a new schedule and make sure we have the people, the right people in the house”. Ok - I wrote that done in the “Doing column”

Me: “When can we start the experiment?” They: “Should be doable for Monday I think” I wrote that down under “Start”.

Me: “and …” Marketing: “WAIT! We need to do marketing around this too.” Me: “Good point! Can you have that ready by Monday?” Marketing: “No problemo, hombre!” The rest of the group: “Wait wait wait… Let’s start slow here. What if we’re flooded on the first day?” Me: “Maybe if we do marketing from Wednesday?” Marketing: “Booo .. chickens” The rest of the group: “Yah! Awesome idea” I wrote “Prepare marketing for Wednesday in the “Doing”-column.

Me: “Ok, when is the experiment over?” They: “eeeeh? Over?” Me: “Yeah, it’s an experiment. When should we evaluate?” They: “After 4 weeks?” Me: “Sounds about right. A bit long maybe but ok then.” I wrote Monday + 4 weeks under Stop-column.

Me: “Ok, what should we evaluate? When would we know if this is a success?” Them: “That’s easy. More walk-in customers.” Them (person 2): “Yeah, and more customer type 2 (that we earn more from), because 1/7 walk-in customer becomes a type 2 customer” (Sorry have to disguise the real type of customers here…) Them (person 3): “The cost of salary should go up too, I presume…” I wrote it down, during the discussions, in a “Success”-column. We agreed on these 3.

Me: “What would be failure?” Them: “Well … no more customers?” I wrote “No significant increase in customers” in “What is failure”-column I created. Me: “Also, let’s make sure that this doesn’t take to much work from us. Let’s add ‘Exhausted staff’ as another failure mode. We don’t want that”.

Me: “Who is nervous?” Them: “Not me - it’s just an experiment!”


I will keep you posted on the progress, but I can tell you that this totally changed the way we saw this “project”. It’s just an experiment. We can afford to be wrong.

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