Input & Output Metrics; Disney vs. the VA

Input & Output Metrics; Disney vs. the VA

The US Department of Veteran Affairs embroiled itself in controversy this week over its response to an ongoing investigation into deficiencies in veteran health care provided by the agency. The VA’s latest imbroglio began when Secretary Robert McDonald, in response to a congressional inquiry into long wait lines for care, responded with the following: “When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience? And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”

The response drew a heavy dose of criticism from congressional leaders, but also elicited the following response from Disney:

“We take wait times very seriously. We continually push the boundaries to give our guests the best experience possible. A large team of highly trained industrial engineers are tasked with improving our guest’s experiences, from transportation, to guest flow, to ride comfort and certainly wait times… We take every facet of the guest experience very seriously. If you have to wait, you should have fun while doing it.”

What these divergent responses illustrate is the difference between input metrics and output metrics. Output metrics are the outcomes that at the end of the day we are trying to deliver. Input metrics are the known variables that influence those outcomes. Successful organizations seek to improve their overall outputs by identifying the key inputs and controlling them. Secretary McDonald’s insensitive remarks had an element of truth – the overall objective the VA should be striving for is satisfaction with the totality of the experience. It’s just difficult to imagine how the VA can achieve that satisfaction without greater awareness of the inputs into that experience. Conversely, Disney’s response illustrates the steps that a sophisticated data driven organization takes to measure each aspect of the experience that influences their outcomes.

Public sector organizations like the VA can benefit from the examples of private sector companies like Disney by identifying, measuring, and seeking to improve the input metrics that drive the overall experience they are delivering for constituents. As always, I hope you find this helpful and encourage you to follow the conversation on twitter at #GovHR.