Managing to the Exception

I often tell my clients to avoid managing (or programming) to the exception. What I mean is too often when one or two members or customers complain about how we do something, we assume that we should accomodate their complaints and change our processes (or worse yet, reprogram the database to manage it). It's quite possible the one or two complainers are outliers and we should ignore them.

I ran into an example of this recently when filling out a form online. The form was for submitting a proposal for a presentation at a conference The form said, and I quote: "Describe the session content and format. Be specific! You are limited to 100 words."

Be specific? 100 words for a session description? Be specific, but be brief!

I have no knowledge of how this form was designed, but I'm willing to bet it went something like this: "You know, last year, ONE person wrote a whole book for their session description, so let's limit everyone to 100 words."

Seriously, what logical reason could there be for limiting a session description to 100 words? Why not 1000 words? Are you telling me that the vast majority of applicants will write hundreds and hundreds of words for their description? And even if they do, who cares? Does limiting the number of words help the applicant, or the staff? 

Look around your organization, especially at the rules you have in place. Are they in place to benefit the customer, or to benefit the staff?

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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