Metrics: How to Improve Key Business Results Part 21

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3. To Accompany Organizational Development Efforts.

If and when your organization embarks on organizational development efforts, it should include measures of success. These give clarity to the goals and allow those involved to know how well they are progressing toward the finish line.

As a strategy and planning consultant, I have worked on many organizational development teams. The latest included professional development and employee Integration teams. Each team wanted metrics to show progress and hopefully levels of success.

Say you're asked, "How do we know if we're successful?" Or, "How do we know when we're done?" Your answer will usually will be, "The metrics will tell us."

These measures are dependent on the efforts involved. The efforts will normally determine the quadrant the metrics fall in. If you are doing employee professional development, you will find your metrics in the Organization Health quadrant. If your questions are around achievement of the strategic goals of the organization, you may be in the Future Health quadrant.

Again, the main difference between these and the Product/Service Health metrics I've covered is that these are metrics in response to specific root questions resulting from focused efforts. The scope of these metrics should be well defined. The Product/Service Health metrics I offer are the foundation for a long-term metrics program, not a measure of a specific effort.

These metrics, built around specific efforts, can still be "risky." But, since they come "attached" to the specific effort, the risks of fear, uncertainty and doubt are much easier to mitigate.

Perhaps it would be more correct to consider these "other metrics" rather than advanced metrics. These are not more sophisticated than effectiveness metrics.

The Benefits Metrics Provide an Immature Organization.

Before we look at metrics in the other quadrants, let's step back and look at the forest we're in. I've argued that metrics, as an organizational improvement tool, is not suited for an organization suffering from the inability to successfully take on enterprise-wide improvement efforts. (I offered an a.s.sessment in Why Organizations Struggle So Hard to Improve So Little for determining if your organization suffers from Organizational Immaturity.) I've held this position for a long time because of the dangers inherent in metrics and the risks involved. I've seen the fear rise up and poison an organization. Fear born of poorly defined and poorly implemented metrics.

While I still believe metrics to be one of the most (if not the most) risky of tools, I have gained a new appreciation for the value metrics can provide in moving an organization forward.

I'm not referring to changing behaviors through measurement. I find that to be the riskiest of uses for metrics. No, I mean through some little-known byproducts of implementing a metrics program. I have found that metrics, when done well (or at least safely), can be a catalyst to improvement. By measuring, the organization finds out a lot about what it doesn't know.

Let's look at a simple example.

When measuring the speed of a process, the organization learns that it lacks more information than it realized. Many times I've found that the organization doesn't even know the process in question well enough to produce the necessary measures. This lack of understanding becomes apparent because of the attempts to measure it.

Measuring tells you what you didn't know you didn't know.

Every process improvement method I've learned and used begins with defining the process needing improvement. Even in Lean Six Sigma, where your goals are to reduce waste and improve flow, a favorite tool is the value stream map, which requires you to define the process. But, what if you're not doing a process-improvement effort? What if your boss is pus.h.i.+ng for measures?

Well, those measures may also require a full understanding of the processes to be measured. You'll need to ask questions like: When does the process start? Even this simplest of questions is difficult for some organizations to answer. Does it start with the first action a worker takes within the process? Or does it start with the request by the customer? Does it start with the identification of a need?

When does the process conclude? Is it upon delivery? Or is it upon closure of the doc.u.mentation used to track the progress of the process? Is conclusion dependent on a successful delivery of the service or product? Or does it simply designate the completion of the attempt?

Are there subprocesses? Especially ones you don't control? Within the process there may be many subprocesses-many that are misunderstood or unknown. Who owns those subprocesses? How do they affect your work? Are they prerequisites to other steps? Are they critical to the successful completion of your process?

By asking for the data, measures, information, and most importantly the root question, you encourage (if not force) the organization to define the thing being measured. In many instances, you will find that you have to improve the thing being measured to make it measurable.

You may need to improve the thing being measured to make it possible to measure it.

By measuring, you gain a better understanding of the things to be measured. This includes processes (if you're doing a process-improvement effort), employee interactions and policies, strategic plans, and how you handle long-term projects. Another improvement area that measuring promotes is in actually changing the way you do things.

Making Your Processes Repeatable.

The steps to a process should not just be understood and communicated, but they should be consistent. They should be repeatable. In attempting to measure the process, with the underlying purpose of improving it, you push the organization to have the process defined well enough to measure it. That is why the largest benefit garnered from implementing a metric program may lie in the requirement that the processes be defined and understood well enough to measure.

When you've defined the process, you still will not be able to gain useful measures around it unless it is carried out consistently each time it is used. This consistency allows for corrections and improvements.

As you may have noticed, I like sports a.n.a.logies. Here's a short one. I am constantly impressed with the ability some people have to throw a basketball from over twenty-five feet through a horizontal cylinder ten feet high. They call it "shooting," as if that makes it more of a skill. But the simple truth is that they are throwing the ball. Many do so in a high arc, allowing the ball to come down through the hoop without touching the metal rim. What I find especially impressive is how many different forms and techniques the players use. The key I've learned is not how you hold your hand, arrange your feet, follow through, or even square your hips to the target. The simple trick is consistency. If you "shoot" the ball the same way every time, you will get better. Not because you repeat the process the same way (or you would continue to miss) but because you can make small corrections. Because you are consistent in your delivery, you can see how each small adjustment changes the results. Eventually, you'll find the right formula, technique, or process that gives you a high percentage of success.

Consistency allows for improvement.

The same is true for process improvement in your organization. You have to understand the process. You have to repeat the process the same way each time. You have to measure the results. You can then make adjustments to improve the results. Your process or methods can be unique, but they have to be repeatable and repeated.

Measuring Helps to Encourage Using Existing Processes.

You don't have to try to improve something with measures to affect it positively; simply measuring it has the capability to do so. This is where the adage, "you improve what you measure" comes from. As I've told you, though, measuring can also make the performance deteriorate. There is no a.s.surance that the result of measuring is improvement. The only a.s.surance is that the things you measure will change. The act of measuring acts as a catalyst for change-good or bad.

While that is true for the process being measured, there are other, related processes that are affected as well. For example, in our Service Desk scenario, the speed to resolve a trouble call required the use of the trouble-call tracking system.

When I needed to measure the time to resolve issues for a couple of our offices, it quickly became apparent that the trouble call system was not being used by the technicians. The manager of the departments would have to go through each case history to adjust the close dates and times because the technicians weren't closing them when the process called for them to. They would wait days and even weeks to close cases. It was seen as unimportant doc.u.mentation and paperwork. I heard more than once that "it's not the real work-the real work is helping the customer." And "filling out that stuff takes time that I could be helping solve more problems."

As with most arguments, there is a fair amount of truth packed into those statements. But as with most things, the paperwork is very important. It's important when the manager is fighting for additional resources. You have to prove not only that you have more work than your staff can handle, but that it is working efficiently and that adding more resources would solve the problem. This is hard to prove if you have no evidence. And if your time to resolve shows up as weeks for simple problems, leaders.h.i.+p will rightly a.s.sume that you are inefficient.

When we developed the Report Card, these managers got tired of me coming to them each month for a quality check of the data in the trouble call tracking system. It was data that should have been accurate. The metrics I was building wasn't the reason for the data. The metrics only highlighted that the staff was not using the tools properly. People were not following the processes and procedures that were created for them to track trouble calls. The managers knewthe staff wasn't completing the cases properly, but it was a battle they didn't want to fight. They were actually happy to have a clear reason to push their staff to use the tool in the way it was intended.

Metrics in the Other Quadrants.

In Chapter 5, which discussed using the Answer Key, and Chapter 6, which covered effectiveness metrics, I discussed each of the four quadrants. I also suggested that you start with Effectiveness and you end with Efficiency. While you may use efficiency measures (sparingly) to support your Product/ Service Health metrics, you shouldn't embark on a full Process Health program at first.

I recommended that the second area to add to your metrics program would be the employee view, Organization Health. This can yield immense benefits for your organization. By focusing on your "greatest a.s.sets" you can help build a stronger, better, faster, happier organization. The measures within the third quadrant will help you do this.

The bonus to developing your organizational health view lies in the same reasoning as to why effectiveness was the safest place to start. There is much less risk that the staff will misunderstand your intentions. Product/ Service Health measures were from the customer's viewpoint. It is easier to convince the workforce that the effectiveness measures won't be used against them since they reflect the customers' view. The biggest benefit, which accompanies the lower risk factor, is that by measuring Product/ Service Health, you can improve your customers' view of your organization and thereby improve your bottom line (even if that bottom line is not financially driven).

By focusing next on Organization Health (Figure 11-2), you still avoid the risks involved, even more easily than effectiveness measures since the metrics are for the employees instead of about them. It can also help improve your workforce's view of your organization. This should improve morale, loyalty, and dedication. It should also improve productivity-not by measuring, controlling, and manipulating behavior-but by proving to your workforce that when you say they are your greatest a.s.set, you actually mean it.

Organization Health.

Figure 11-2. Quadrant 3 of the Answer Key.

You don't have to take my word for it. Fortune magazine, which produces the "top 500" list of companies, partners with the Great Place to Work Inst.i.tute to determine the 100 best places to work. Employee satisfaction is a critical factor to a company's success.

In the short term, a company can be highly successful with unhappy and disgruntled employees. A tyrannical approach can work for a leader, in the short term. If you want your company to have longevity in success, the employee view is critical.

The Fortune 500 is a good measure of the company's current success. Being one of the 100 best companies to work for may help you determine if a company will succeed in the future. A third available measure is the 100 "most innovative companies" according to Bloomberg Businessweek. (Table 11-1 lists the companies that appear on all three rankings, while Table 11-2 lists those that appear on both Fortune 500 and Best.) Sometimes less information is better. Looking at a little less information provides us a different, and perhaps clearer, picture. Picking which data to use is an important part of designing the metric-and a much easier step if you have a clear understanding of the root question you're trying to answer.


In doing research for this book, I realized that if I were looking for a job, I'd care more about finding a "best company to work for" than a Fortune500. But you probably aren't looking for metrics for picking your next employer. You are most likely trying to figure out what metrics you need to improve your organization and how to measure progress.

As with getting on many ranked lists, you have to submit information and complete a survey to be evaluated by these companies. To become one of the top 100 companies to work for, you have to take the time and effort to complete the paperwork. And it's not only you or your leaders.h.i.+p. Your employees will have to complete an a.s.sessment tool.

This is a useful tool-especially from a reward-and-recognition standpoint. But, it's not necessary. What is necessary is for you to obtain your employee's viewpoint and work to develop a solid and healthy organization. This is an example of how an organization (or leader) can get caught up in "chasing data" rather than trying to achieve a goal.

The goal has to be independent of the metrics used to measure attainment of it.

The goal should not be to be in a "top 100 list," but the goal can be to become a top 100 company. It doesn't matter if you are recognized as a top 100 company. What matters is that you have a healthy organization that would qualify. Your goal shouldn't be to obtain a certain internal satisfaction rating on your employee surveys-it should be to have a healthy, happy, loyal employee. You may measure this using a survey, but the nuance is in the details. If you celebrate the survey results, you may miss the boat, and that can be an embarra.s.sing time.

I've seen more than once where a team or person won an award from the organization, based on measures gathered, only to have that same person (or team) readily admit that they didn't "deserve" the award. Someone filled out the paperwork, someone answered the survey, or someone submitted them for the award without knowing the whole story. When a worker receives recognition and rewards he doesn't feel was earned, the reward system loses validity in the eyes of the recipient and others.

If you chase data, you'll miss this and end up believing that: Your program is working well since you are getting a good number of submissions and giving out awards on a regular basis That the organization health is strong since there are so many awards being given out If the employees believe these awards are given to the wrong people or to undeserving people, the program will take a serious. .h.i.t. Unfortunately, chances are the administrators of the program (and leaders.h.i.+p) may never realize that the program is not viewed as valid.

Don't misunderstand. Workers are very concerned with the company's success. Not just for job security and hoped-for pay increases each year. An employee who loves her job, loves her company, and is loyal to the organization cares about the company's success as much as a college graduate who loved his school cares about the inst.i.tution's continued success. Your workforce can build a strong attachment for the organization. While the employees care about the company's success, they want leaders.h.i.+p to care about them. And employees want their boss to care about them.

The good news is, if leaders.h.i.+p and management truly care about the employee and focuses a fair amount of attention on improving the employee's work experience, the company as a whole will benefit.

Employee Satisfaction.

If employees are satisfied (happy) with their jobs, they will work harder. They will look for ways to help the organization succeed. They will take pride and owners.h.i.+p in the company's success.

Walking across campus, I habitually pick up stray pieces of trash. I've been asked why I bother. I get arguments about how others are paid to clean up the grounds, how people will just keep throwing trash, and how it should be "beneath" me to pick up other people's trash. I just smile and tell all of them the same thing. "It's my university. Why wouldn't I clean it up?" If there was trash blowing across my yard, I'd pick it up. You should want your employees to feel that the company is theirs, not the CEO's.


Another win-win opportunity is found in training. Employees know you consider them a valuable a.s.set if you put your money where your mouth is. Not necessarily in the form of raises-though I don't know of anyone who is unhappy about getting a raise-but in the form of paying for their education. If you believe the worker to be a valuable a.s.set, you would happily pay to have that a.s.set become even more valuable. You can focus your efforts on trying to manipulate and control the workers' behaviors or you can focus on building trust and loyalty. When you train your personnel to be better at their work, they can be more productive. This builds pride. It also lets them know that you care. And, it makes it possible for the workers to be more efficient and effective.

Work Environment.

Is your workforce in cramped s.p.a.ce? Are your workers living in a cubicle farm? Is the lighting bad? Are the temperature controls adequate? Is it a happy place to work? Is laughter in the halls seen as a sign of a healthy work environment or a sign that the employees don't have enough to do?

Environment matters! Most workers spend more waking hours in the same small office s.p.a.ce than they do anywhere else.

If you spend over eight hours, five days a week, in the same environment, it should be an environment that stimulates productive work. It should be an innovative, fun, positive, rewarding place to work. This is not only about the facilities; it is also about the culture of the organization.

Reward and Recognition.

People want to be noticed. People want to be rewarded. Actually, all creatures like positive attention. It makes you feel good. This is one of the best ways to improve organization health, but it's also one of the hardest to do right. The problem is that you have to get it right. As described earlier-if you reward the wrong people or for the wrong things, your efforts will backfire. You have to ensure before you hand out rewards that the recipients are the right people and have done the right things. This requires more than putting a "recognition program" in place. It requires more than setting up a system for employees to nominate each other for recognition or rewards. It requires earnest interest in what the workforce is doing and who is really making positive things happen.

There are more ways to mess up than to succeed, as follows: The Shotgun. Rewarding everyone in a blanket method doesn't work. "You are all such great workers that I'm giving the entire organization a day off!" There is a problem if everyone isn't really doing great work. The workers know who is a good worker and who isn't. The shotgun approach tells the workforce that You don't know them You don't care to get to know them.

The Elective Process. If you inst.i.tute a program where people can submit others for rewards and an administrator sifts through the submissions to determine winners, you are going to create a system that is more of a game than a tool for rewards and recognition. The workers will either ignore the system or see how many rewards you can be made to give to the wrong people. The problems are simple in the workforce's eyes: Leaders.h.i.+p and management should care enough to know when a worker deserves praise You're asking the employees to do management's job for them.

Metrics: How to Improve Key Business Results Part 21

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