They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

they shoot horses

Today’s guest blog post is by Workforce Institute board member and Kronos Chief People Officer David Almeda.  Here, he explores whether there is a magic formula for delivering more effective human capital management solutions and whether Henry Ford has anything to teach us about building better buggies.  Read on to see what any of this has to do with this 1969 movie that garnered 9 Oscar nominations and one win (for Gig Young, Best Supporting Actor).

Henry Ford once said that if he had asked his customers what they were looking for, they would have told him that they needed a faster horse. Obviously, Henry did them one better when he invented the Model T. He took the time to completely understand what his customers needed, and then exceeded their expectations by introducing the first automobile for the masses.

Historians now tell us that Henry Ford knew that he would be meeting a very clear market need when he mass produced the Model T. He also knew that to be optimally effective, he would need to manufacture a product that was not only of high quality, but that would be well-accepted by a large number of consumers. Seems like a pretty simple concept right? Identify a product that people want and then construct it in a way that will make the product wildly popular. But, how many human capital management (HCM) focused solutions are constructed using this approach?  Probably not as many as we’d like to believe. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there was a repeatable formula that would consistently lead to more effective HCM outcomes? Maybe there is.

Effectiveness = Quality x Acceptance… E=Q x A.

This is a formula that has been regularly applied in the areas of change management and process improvement, among others. This formula also has a proven track record of increasing the effectiveness of HCM solutions. The concept is simple, any new or improved HCM solution is only going to be effective if it is a) of high quality and b) accepted by the vast majority of the target population (end users).  In mathematical terms, if both quality and acceptance are a “10” on a scale of 1-10, then effectiveness will equal 100.  This is the result that Henry Ford was likely shooting for. From a HCM solution perspective, it’s the result that will always have the most positive impact on the organization.

A critical part of successfully applying this formula is to understand that compromising on either quality or acceptance will have a decidedly negative impact on overall effectiveness. As an example, even if quality is high (e.g. 10), if the target population doesn’t accept (read embrace and use) the solution (e.g. 5), the effectiveness of the solution is reduced by half (50 vs. 100).  The same efficacy degradation would occur if quality was low and acceptance was high. In that scenario, a large number of end users would happily be employing a solution that would not be having the necessary impact on the organization as a whole. Solutions that strike the right balance between quality and acceptance are far more likely to be successful.

There are at least two lessons that we can take from Henry Ford’s work that are relevant when thinking about the practical application of E = Q x A:

1) Having the proper perspective is critical.

The formula requires that potential solutions be viewed from the end users point of view, not from the “inventor’s vantage point”. Based on his results, it’s fairly safe to assume that, in some manner, Henry Ford calculated values for acceptance and quality using his customer’s perspective, not his. This is a crucial point. It’s easy to fall in love with a product or solution because it meets our own needs. Putting the end user first, while still finding solutions that address the general need, will always result in better outcomes. Said another way, if you implement what you think is the perfect solution but few people use it, everyone loses.

2) Don’t give your customers what they think they want, give them what they need. 

High quality, value-priced, readily accessible automobiles – not faster horses. Henry Ford took the essence of what his (potential) customers were saying they needed, applied his own thinking and expertise, and came up with a product that exceeded their expectations. To state the obvious, this is, or should be, one of the primary objectives of any significant solution-focused effort.   Determine the needs of the organization, find the pain-points for the end users, and then apply functional expertise to design and deliver solutions that wow the “customers.”

So, is E = Q x A the answer to all of our solution design and implementation challenges?  Of course not. But, it is a proven approach that would seem to have solid applicability in all environments. Taking a page out of Henry Ford’s playbook and regularly employing more end user-centric approaches like E = Q x A presents what is a proven path to producing more effective HCM solutions. From my perspective, it beats the unattractive and ultimately unproductive alternative of trying to produce faster and faster horses.

What can your HCM solution providers do to deliver you better products and services?

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