Results and evidence

In services, outcomes are the goods. Experience is the packaging in which the goods are delivered. It is critical that customers are able to walk away with outcomes they pay for, and own them, just as easily they’re able to walk away with a bag full of goods from a retail store. In services, the outcomes materialize within the artifacts and events customers care about. In other words, results and evidence should be embedded in customer assets. The linen at the hotel is clean and ready for the next guest after it comes back from dry-cleaning. An aircraft seeking clearance for take-off or landing is embedded with rights and privileges. After getting clearance from air traffic control, the rights and privileges are transformed into authorization and permissions.

Results should be clear and evident. Sometimes the evidence is quite clear and obvious. For example, one can plainly see the malfunctioning component is working well again, currency notes are getting dispensed from the ATM, the video stream for a movie rental is playing, and wheels are turning inside the head of the student, as the professor delivers education in the form of enlightenment.

The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

In some cases, things may be neither clear nor obvious. If the streets are quiet without violence or disruption, is it because of the presence of police or the absence of crime? If you fall sick or have the need to get medical care, is that health insurance policy actually working? On trip back from the United States, you open your luggage and find a paper slip from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), indicating your property has been inspected. That’s somewhat reassuring, but for whom?

The clever designer will introduce evidence that assures but doesn’t interfere. For every element you introduce into the frontstage is a potential fail point. Reliability engineering formulas show that the probability of failure increases with the number of components, with each component having a failure curve. Humans fail. Machines fail. Connections between them fail.

While results and evidence may only be measurable after the fact, they can be quite binary. The issue of how close the effect is to what was advertised and promised is matter of tolerance. In some cases, the tolerances need to be small or extremely strict. But contracts must specify them for enforcement. The on-time arrival of a flight, the accuracy of a medical test, the timely transfer of funds, and the number of security breaches, are examples of measurable outcomes. How readily quality of service can be measured depends on the time it takes for outcomes not just to materialize but becomes evident. Measure the quality of outcomes of a prison system, or that of a legislative body may be harder to measure. And since not everything can be measured inexpensively, there is often the use of surrogate measures or indicators.

Filed under: thoughts


TL;DR I can audit the design of a service to prevent or predict systemic failure, using a proprietary method called 16F I make intractable problems, tractable by reframing them. I then design solutions that won't create problems elsewhere, now or in the future. The solutions are in the form of services. I focus on system-level structures that give meaning and purpose to the design of lower-level constructs such as processes, interfaces, and interactions. I've spent the last 10 years obsessed with the questions: What are services? Why do they fail? Why do they exist? I'm now writing a book. Design is my dogma. Curiosity is my doctrine. Industrial engineering is my discipline. @mxiqbal

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