A QA Parable

There was a certain man who managed several groves of fruit trees for a shrewd owner. One day he visited a particular grove and spoke with the grove’s caretaker. Standing next to a tree on the edge of the grove, the manager said to the caretaker, "I noticed the beginning signs of the blight on these exposed tree roots."

"Oh that," said the caretaker. "This tree is on the edge of the grove and it more susceptible to the elements."

"Very well," said the manager, and he want on his way.

The following month the manager returned and was standing by a tree in the middle of the grove when the caretaker approached. "I was looking at this tree, and I noticed a touch of the blight on the trunk," the manager said.

"Oh yes," the caretaker said. "This particular tree has been a problem since it was a sapling. I’ll keep my eye on it."

"Very well," said the manager, and he want on his way.

The next month the manager returned to the grove. He stood by a tree near the back of the grove where the caretaker joined him. "I was looking at this tree," said the manager, "and there are clear signs of blight on these branches."

"I know," responded the caretaker, "but here at the back of the grove the soil is rocky and it’s not as rich as the rest of the grove."

"Very well," said the manager, and he want on his way.

The harvest came and the the grove yielded very little fruit, for every tree in the grove was infected with blight. The owner of the grove was very angry and fired the manager, explaining to him "you didn’t see the blight of the forest for the blight of the trees."

I witness many QA programs that coach CSRs on individual calls, but they do very little to track performance data over time. Some programs will track overall service scores, but not element-by-element performance. When the QA coach goes over a call with a CSR, the CSR can come up with all sorts of excuses why this particular call "had the blight" (i.e. "I usually do that. I must have been having a bad day"). With no data to refute the CSR’s excuse, the coach can’t address the on-going issue that is infecting the "forest" of calls.

Does your QA program focus on the trees at the expense of seeing the forest?

Flickr photo courtesy of wiccked

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