Reading The Ultimate Question is easy, understanding the principle is not that hard, but living up to the statements is probably one of the hardest things any organisation can do. This is also stressed in the book; giving the customers and the users so much power and influence can be hard, especially if you're a manager used to KNOWING what is good for your company. So, to get back to my previous cliff hanger. What is the ultimate question?
The ultimate question is the one question you can put to a customer and from which derive the quality of the customer relation but also the future economics of an organisation. In it's purest form, the question is:
Would you recommend organization X to your friends or collegues?
So, why is this the ultimate question? As I've stressed earlier, you should really read the book yourself. See this only as a teaser. But the idea is that questions concerning the own experience is just not enough. The reason for you staying with a business can be complex. There might be costs with switches, etc. But if you are willing to give a recommendation to someone, it means that you stick up your head and state that this is something you think is really good. And also the opposite; if you find an organization that poor that you actively or when questioned about it, recommend another alternative, that is really powerful. And if you have more people talking bad about you than good about you, you're probably in a bad organization. You might still have paying customers but that are talking ill of you and given the opportunity, they will abandon you. If you instead have customers talking well of you, they are probably more loyal and are the best sales people for you.
So, what you do is that you ask this question to your customers, giving them the option to answer on a scale, 1-10 how likely it is that they would recommend you. And then you take the 9 & 10's and retract the 1-6. Now you have a value which you can compare in time, between departments, divisions, etc.
When it comes to software development, asking the ultimate question about the result of a delivery might not give much, but if the numbers change between deliveries or if different customer groups are differently affected by a delivery, you have something to discuss.
And also, as it is with all these questions. If you post the question in the team room and state that this is the goal, to make the people recommending your business more and the negatives fewer, you can also focus on what makes them more delighted in your product and what pisses them off. Low quality and bad user interface really annoys people but is probably hard to give a business value but with these findings perhaps we are in the making of giving them a value. How about that?
I will get back to this subject!