I am one of those people who is always looking for ways to do things better. It’s a disease with the status quo I caught in my days as a product development engineer that was fostered throughout my career at P&G over the next two decades. P&G could actually be the North American birthplace of continuous improvement –  I remember lots of visits from Dr. Deming –  the man in the picture above.

As I moved from engineering to communications, the penchant for finding ways to improve didn’t disappear.  However, the ability to measure communications programs isn’t as straightforward as doing laboratory experiments.Breakthrough results in any profession are often the result of strategic continuous improvement thinking. Click To Tweet

It is easier than ever before to measure outputs – produce a blog, write a brochure, write a media release, count media impressions. But measuring outcomes can be much more time consuming and in many cases adds costs to a program that many clients simply aren’t prepared to incur.  That’s because communications programs are often one small element in an overall business strategy and are designed to change behaviour or attitudes that might only be measured with well-executed and often costly methods.

This week, I am with some fellow communicators at a conference and we have been discussing the lack of meaningful, outcome measures in communications. It is clear that budget isn’t the only issue impeding measurement – there is also the element of time.  Time to think about what the outcome should be and time to devise ways to measure success.

Time is the enemy of many business strategies.

It seems that taking a time out to assess a project, its successes and shortcomings eludes us. We are all so busy getting on with the next strategy or executing the next tactic that we don’t take the step-back to determine whether we are making progress, what was successful and where improvement is needed.  Business today is so bottom line focused that we don’t seem capable of taking the time to look at what we are doing to determine whether we can make step changes to improve. It’s like working in a laboratory doing endless experiments without controls or recording results.

Businesses (and communicators) can learn a lot from science – take time to consider the parameters, control the experiment, measure and analyze the results. That’s true continuous improvement and will be the way we will achieve breakthrough results.