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Observation is the process of closely monitoring someone or something and taking notes on the behaviour of the person or thing under observation. Observation is a very powerful and common method to capture the Voice of Customer (VOC) and is usually deployed in marketing studies to understand consumer behaviour. 


Voice of Customer


Voice of Customer (VOC) - is a research tool that captures the stated and unstated needs/requirements of the customer. Interviews, focused group discussions, surveys, observation, warranty data, complaints are some of the ways in which VOC can be captured.



Review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.


Q. 153  VOC via observation is a very powerful approach for problem identification in DMAIC projects as well as in Design Thinking. Observing is thought be as "listening with your eyes". There are 6 points to remember whenever we use observation as a tool to identify an underlying problem/challenge. These six points are given below along with examples from my training experience (in brackets). 


1. Look for things that prompt behavior 
(Whenever we show detailed explanations or create summary pages on the screen, few participant's try to take a picture of the same.)


2. Look for adaptations/hacks/workarounds
(To avoid switching between a notepad and a laptop, few participants make notes in a word document)


3. Look for what people care about/value the most
(Participants are always interested in examples of real time industry application of the tools they are learning)


4. Look for body language
(Some participants might get distracted if they have to toggle between multiple applications)


5. Look for patterns 
(Since we train in different states of the country and abroad, participants exhibit differences in learning curves, preferred mode of engagement, openness to questioning, etc.)


6. Look for the unexpected 
(Participants who score well during checkpoint quizzes necessarily are not the top scorers in the main exam.)


We at Benchmark Six Sigma regularly improvise and fine tune our delivery, course content, offerings and engagement methods based on these observations. Here are a few questions for everyone:

1. What are the ways you have used observation as a tool to identify avenues for product/process improvement or plan to do the same? 
2. Do you have examples for any of the 6 points mentioned above (or for all of them) from your daily processes?
3. What actions did you take post identification? 


Looking forward to interesting examples.  
(Note to remember: We must observe with an open and curious mind avoiding generalizations, judgment, and assumptions.)


Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.


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Benchmark Six Sigma Expert View by Venugopal R


Observing Human behavior is very important during training sessions to gather feed back and modify your approach to make your session as effective as possible and for long term learning. Similarly, while doing mentoring of projects with Black Belt or Green Belt leaders, observation techniques are equally important.


1. Look for things that prompt behavior 

One of the important aspects during a project drive is to have constancy on pursuing the objective. An important behavioral observation is to see if the leader sets himself / herself a disciplined schedule. It is important to have some kind of planned schedule and adhere to it in terms of meeting, review and working sessions. Setting up such a time structure is a behavioral trait that triggers one to fill in the time slots with some targeted accomplishments.

2. Look for adaptations/hacks/workarounds

Changes do keep happening in an organization and during the course of a project, it is quite possible that the relevance of the project objective could get altered, due to other business strategies / factors. Some project leaders find this as excuses for lack of progress in their projects, where as some others will figure out a workaround to adapt their projects to the changed scenario.


3. Look for what people care about/value the most
The WIFM factor (What Is in it For Me) is very prevalent and influences the motivation for any leader to put in their best on the project. WIFM factor could vary for different individuals. Some may be looking for:

a)       Monetary rewards

b)       Recognition

c)       Making their job easier

d)       Learning experience

e)       Any other

If we understand which category of WIFM the individual belongs to, in terms of what he / she values most as the outcome of doing the project, it could perhaps help in the way you may address the individual. The would also be individuals who do not appear to value anything and show poor involvement and urge for their project. There would also be individuals who value something, but may not make it obvious!


4. Look for body language

While mentoring someone on a project, you cannot miss many body languages:

Cell phone is the most common distraction. It is also a wonderful tool to pretend that you are busy with something. However, an experienced eye can easily differentiate between someone who is genuinely busy and those who pretend to be busy. It is important to keep observing and assess how much attention of your mentee you are able to gain and accordingly change your approach and strategy.


5. Look for patterns 

 One of the patterns of behavior on people is the timing they work best. There are certain people who are best in the morning hours and some who are best in the evening hours. There are many who whose concentration will seriously taper down from a Friday afternoon and will be regained only after the next Monday afternoon. Again, there are some busy bees who prefer to take the work on weekends. Mostly, I find the meeting effectiveness is best if the duration is maintained for one to one and half hours, with a pre-planned agenda and objective.

6. Look for the unexpected 
Few project leaders who are sluggish, might make sudden spurt of improvements and the opposite is also possible. Some start off with high excitement and vigor, but by the time you reach the Measure phase, the energy levels may dip considerably. Another unpredictable pattern is ‘Mood swings’ and your effectiveness with the person depends on which way the swing occurs.


On the whole, observing the conduct and manners of your audience / participants / mentees and trying to best adapt to the feedback based on observations is a very important control method to improve the effectiveness of your endeavor.

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Please read the question and Benchmark's expert view to get a couple of examples. If you would like to contribute more examples, let us know!

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