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Are you actively interfering with your mission?

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 06/26/2014

I’ve been active in HOBY Minnesota for seven years now.  HOBY is an international program that offers annual leadership seminars to high school sophomores, challenging them to log 100 hours of community service in the following year. We have a clear vision on what we need to measure.  Whereas businesses often use revenue as a primary measurement, we focus on logged community service hours.

But as with revenue, logged hours is a trailing indicator. So how do we get a sense on how we’re doing while at the seminar?

Examples Across Fields

This isn’t just a non-profit question.  My clients struggle with this, as well.  When we build our customer experience program, how do we measure how we’re doing today, so we can predict tomorrow’s results?  And most businesses get it wrong, because they focus on what feels right.

Two quick examples:

  • I worked with a global pizza chain who felt that getting the basics right (clean restaurants, food delivered quickly) would drive their sales. Yet, their revenue was dropping by 6%. Our analysis showed that the warmth of the greeting drives repeat visits – yet they were focusing their staff time on quick delivery of food.
  • A Health Savings Account company focused on adding functionality to their debit card and website. But we found that ease of website login was far more important – and they had no projects focused on simplifying login, compared to over a million dollars invested in these other areas. In fact, adding functionality to the debit card simply adds complexity, and does not help with retention.

Both are huge companies with tons of resources. Yet both focused their customer experience on what they felt was right, instead of taking the time to discover what metrics really matter. We face the same problem at HOBY.

What “Feels” Right Might Be Wrong

Over recent years we focused on creating an emotional experience at our seminars, feeling this would drive the change. Each year we amped up the emotion, and felt we were really getting through.

But over the last year we noticed something. While each year we felt we made a stronger emotional connection than the last, the number of service hours (our metric that mattered) kept dropping. In addition, every year fewer students came back to volunteer.

Just like these companies, we focused on what felt right. But it seems that focusing exclusively on emotions actively interferes with our mission. We did what felt right, and it’s going wrong.

Luckily, our new seminar chair recognized this problem, and this year he took our program back to the basics. We held our annual seminar this last weekend, and the program included greater balance between head and heart.  We haven’t yet figured out what we can use to measure engagement during the weekend, but at least we’ve recognized what really matters, and taken action.

Here’s hoping you can do the same.


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