It's All About the Data

It's All About the Data
It's All About the Data

Monday, November 4, 2013

When am I done? Why is the customer unhappy?

Within all agreements there is the expectation that the customer will be satisfied.  This basic tenet of contract law is assumed, but rarely documented well in the contract or agreement. How will we know if the customer is satisfied?  When things go bad in a project, more times than not, the problem starts out with the client feeling that their needs are not being met - in other words unsatisfied.

Lean thinking has a concept called Conditions of Satisfaction (COS).  This concept applies to any endeavor/project, whether it is a construction project, IT project, or any other customer-based service.  Conditions of Satisfaction is defined as:

Criteria by which the outcome of a contract, program, or project may be measured.

What does a Condition of Satisfaction include:
  1. What are the expectations of the customer?  How often do we assume that or project/service meets those expectations.
  2. Have the Conditions of Satisfaction been documented/validated/verified and confirmed by the customer?
  3. Are the Conditions of Satisfaction(s) defined in a actionable way?

The project will be done by January 1, 2014.
The project schedule will be defined later.
The training will be three days.
The customer will be satisfied with the training.
There will be three (3) solutions provided that meet Owner's objective as outlined in Section A.
A solution that will meet the customer's goal will be provided.

These actionable items require two key elements:
  1. Actionable items solve project requirements. The requirements that the project must solve needs to be written in a clear and defined way.  Each requirement shall be stated in a precise manner, and solve only one issue at a time.  There may be multiple requirements in a project.
  2. The requirements also need to describe what the customer is to do.  Some call this NIC (not in contract), but I believe that Conditions of Satisfaction needs to include what the customer is providing.  I have found the best projects are one where the customer is fully engaged in the process, including providing elements of the completed project.  This dual, written commitment makes for a better partnership between the customer and the provider.

During the project, these COS requirements are reviewed at every meeting, and special attention is paid to them prior to the completion of the work.  A project cannot be complete without agreement on completing the Conditions of Satisfaction requirements.

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's expe

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