Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Improvement to “The Improvement Gap Analysis and Method”

Oh, the irony!

Over the last few years, I’ve had success using this method across a myriad of products, a number of industries and with multiple employee surveys.  When you do something enough, you start to recognize potential challenges and obstacles.  Since interests and considerations for the gap method’s utility have been high, I thought it would be important to share a recent enhancement. 

In the original post, I ended with a Strategy Example (see Exhibit A for summary).  Under number 4, “Analyze the results,” I originally wrote “Use gaps and importance rankings for evaluating and prioritizing areas of improvement.”

I’ve discovered two challenges to this original recommendation.  First, rankings don’t account for variances in importance scoring.  Second, it involves a lot of subjective evaluation in the stage of prioritizing and not a whole lot of science.  So I’ve “geeked” up the method a little to help remove “art” or subjectivity from the equation.

Stumbling Onto Analytical Improvements:

After my umpteenth time in providing a gap analysis for a product, I attempted to visually demonstrate how to execute the fourth stage of “Strategic Implementation.”  I decided a good way to do this would be lining up gap and importance score charts (see Exhibit B using the original blog’s example results).

It occurred to me that I could use the length of the gap and importance scores to mathematically evaluate stage 4.   So a new number was born: The Improvement Score (see Exhibit C for formula).

The Gap Method’s First Amendment:

It actually starts at stage 3, “Tabulate results and charts.”  I’ve replaced the Importance Rank (farthest column to right) from the original post example (Exhibit 8) with the newly developed Improvement Score (See Exhibit 8.1 for replacement).

Next, I replaced the original Exhibit 13 example with the chart/ranker seen in Exhibit 13.1.  As you can see with the results, this method supports the original intent for evaluation through art, but now with greater reliability.  The top three improvement areas are the same, we just have a better sense of the variances in improvements compared to one another and to the rest of the areas.

Demonstrating Its Value:

One of the best ways to demonstrate this application is through an example.  If we were to perform a gap analysis on eleven factors (A-K) and received results back as seen in Exhibit D, all the gaps would be equal (-2 in the instance).

If all gaps are equal, where would we be best served to focus our improvements?  Answer:  the areas highest in importance.  See Exhibit E for example of the use of the first amendment: The Improvement Score.

An Improved Improvement Evaluation Process:

I hope this closes this chapter of the Improvement Gap Method for some time; although, deep down I know this will continue to be evolutionary.  What I do know is that I sleep more soundly after incorporating this enhancement.  While this helped remove an agonizing and subjective step of picking and choosing from the process, don’t let this amendment/improvement lead decision makers into thinking “The Improvement Scores” are the end all be all in prioritizing.  Ultimately, leaders and managers also need to make final decisions based on additional factors like: resources, costs, time, or feasibility.  Sorry, “easy buttons” don’t exist in the real world, but here’s hoping you find good use for this “easier button.”

Best of luck with your analytical projects.