How to Measure the Success of Your Research Project

on July 19, 2017

Often, we go into research projects with really high expectations—unrealistically high—that we are going to find something so novel, so innovative that it will blow everyone’s minds. While it’s not bad to hope the success of your research is evident at first glance, that’s not usually the way it happens. Sometimes our research findings aren’t jaw dropping. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t extremely informative. However, leaders often believe that if they aren’t shocked and entertained by the research presented to them, the findings don’t have value. Nothing could be further from the truth! Also, a quick look at how impressive (or not) research findings seem to be at first glance is not the best way to evaluate the success of your research project.

When “Underwhelming” Data Validates the Success of Your Research Project

Recently, we partnered with a retail brand to help them improve their customer experience. While evaluating what was working for them and what needed improving, we found that in 95% of instances in the highest performing stores, customers were being greeted. This was in contrast to the 60% or so in the average performing stores.

Whoa! Let me pause for a minute and wait for you to put the pieces of your brain back together after reading that one.

Okay, now that you’ve recovered, let’s dig into this piece of research a bit more. Sure, the idea that you should greet your customers upon arrival is not a particularly innovative one. On paper, that’s an underwhelming piece of data. But what I encourage you to do is to resist the impulse to judge a research finding on its novelty and instead, consider the application of those findings: Are you able to get more employees to greet? Once you can get them to greet, can you achieve demonstrably better results?

That is the only way to measure the success of a research project: You found the source of the performance results and you can do something about it.

Even results from research that don’t surprise us have tons of value to the organization. Research findings that seem obvious at first can reveal a LOT. They can provide indicators of where your strategy, operating procedures and initiatives are sticking with the intended audience and where they aren’t. They can shed light on the actual barriers to implementation and provide the map to put strategy into successful practice on the ground.

Dig Deep to Find Out What Your Data Really Means

Let’s look at the retail example again; “Greet” was actually the first bullet in their Customer Experience acronym (P.S. I hate acronyms, but that is for a future blog) so it was not a surprise that successful stores were doing it. But why weren’t the other stores greeting? When we dug deeper, it turned out that a heavy task focus from the manager was causing the employees to keep their heads down in the store.

So, Root helped those stores implement a new tactic that had managers emphasizing CX expectations to every employee on every shift—eliminating the mixed messaging on priorities in the store. Instead of listing an array of tasks for their employees, we helped the managers identify the top priorities and share just those instead.

Successful Research Projects Don’t Always Reveal Jaw-Dropping Findings

Bill Moyers is credited with saying, “Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.” Well, the research version of that quote would go something like, “Good research is piercing the mundane to find the driver.” Research is the art of listening to reality and sometimes, reality isn’t all that exciting—so don’t measure the success of your research project by whether or not the findings knock your socks off. Instead, take a long, hard look at the data you found. Odds are, if we listen closely enough, all the clues to great performance are there.

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