An Example of Quick PDSA Study & Adjust on ESPN’s MNF?
Last night was the first night of Monday Night Football (MNF) on ESPN. I didn't tune in until the last five minutes of the Saints / Texans games (and what a wild finish that was!)
Earlier in the night, ESPN had debuted some new graphics for the bottom of the screen, where they show the score and other details.
Twitter was not happy…
If you can't see the embedded tweet and image, there were many, many complaints about the “down and distance” indicator in the lower right. The problem was it being newly colored as yellow. Well, really it was a neon green maybe, as shown below:
In recent years, fans have been conditioned to know that yellow in the score box indicates that a penalty has been called.
Yellow… neon yellow… anyway, Twitter is the place where people go to be angry — yes, I am guilty of doing that with American Airlines. My tweets are, hopefully, meant to drive improvement. Or, I'm just blowing off steam.
But, ESPN apparently heard the voice of the customer and they changed the box to be black and white, as shown in this tweet from an ESPN executive:
Ironically, the actual “flag” graphic was noticeably less yellow than the original down and distance graphic:
These are clearly “first world problems,” but articles were written about this:
A tweet from one of my favorite sports Twitter follows summarized my thoughts:
“I really have no idea how multiple people looked at that and approved it.”
There are two sides to this coin:
- ESPN tested something and responded quickly to customer feedback in a Plan-Do-Study-Adjust cycle. Good for them. At least they weren't stubborn about it — OR —
- ESPN clearly screwed up because they seem to have not gotten input from regular fans. Couldn't they have done a focus group? Showed it to their uncle in Nebraska? Did they hire designers who don't watch football? Shame on them — they should have done better.
Which is right? Can both 1 and 2 be correct?
I've written about this before:
American Airlines had unveiled some new digital signage that was more pretty than it was helpful. They finally made adjustments to make the destination city and other key info easier to see — bigger and bolder fonts. So, good for them that they adjusted… but who gave the go ahead for signs that were nearly impossible to read from a distance?
While it's good to have rapid cycle improvements, there's also something to be said for planning and getting input BEFORE going live with a change, whether that's ESPN, American Airlines, or a hospital.
On the other hand, as much as you plan and get input, you'll never have something perfect at launch (like a book or a piece of software), so the important thing is being responsive and flexible.
I can see both sides.
When I was helping with a recent healthcare improvement project, a group of us were working on some process changes. We got input from as many people as we could — talking to staff members from many functions. Our plans changes and the new process was better at it's launch because of that input. We weren't working in a vacuum.
We launched the new process and the internal project leader who I was coaching said that she was “90% confident” about the launch. This wasn't a rocket ship launch where you'd want to be closer to 100% confident. We talked about things that could go wrong and the risks. “What's the worst that could happen?”
In this case, it was nothing life or death. A patient or employee might be annoyed with something not being perfect, but we felt confident we could adjust and adapt because we weren't going to be stubborn.
In the case of ESPN's MNF, the worst that could happen is getting a bunch of angry tweets. Life goes on — learn, adjust, adapt, move on. Keep getting better.
Back to my healthcare scenario… even though we launched with a well thought out plan… Plan, Do, Study, Adjust. The team starting “doing” with the new process and things were pretty good. But, they found ways to tweak and refine that new process in the first few hours. Great!
We felt better about that Study and Adjust engagement than we felt bad about not having it perfect. Sometimes, you can't anticipate everything. So it goes. That said, ESPN probably could have anticipated that the yellow/green might confuse viewers.
Oh, and the healthcare team continued to find small refinements (or “kaizen” opportunities) almost every day. It was a great example of relatively large changes helping inspire continued refinement and more PDSA cycles.
So, hooray for ESPN… and shame on ESPN? Mostly hooray?