Metrics: How to Improve Key Business Results Part 29

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How.

How will you implement the program? How will you use the metrics? How won't you use them? How will you improve the organization? How will you communicate your needs? How will you share the results? How will you determine the usefulness of your metrics? How will you kill metrics that are no longer needed?

The "how" can be as simple as a checklist or as complex as an operational manual. The doc.u.mentation you choose will determine the size of the how. The way you choose to capture and share the how will drive changes in your organization.

These are many of the questions I've asked you to consider during the development of your metrics program. I bring them back to your attention to point out that the answers to these questions are very likely to be unique to you and your organization. Metrics designed to help you improve your organization mean that you will be dealing with your organization's strengths and weaknesses. It is unlikely that these will exist in the same shape and form in other organizations. You'd have to get inputs from thousands of organizations to find matches for all of your unique needs. That a.s.sumes, of course, that there are thousands of organizations like yours, already doing metrics, doing them properly, and willing to share with you.

What If Your Boss Doesn't Agree?

What do you do if your boss insists on you finding others to follow? What if you can't convince him to embrace the organization's uniqueness? I offer the following list of steps you can follow to embrace your uniqueness, understanding that you will have to pick and choose which will work for you.

Don't Be Caught Off Guard.

Don't be caught off guard. Expect leaders.h.i.+p to send you on the goose chase.

Don't resist (resistance is futile) the tasking. Instead, attempt to explain that you still need root questions to ensure that you find good examples or benchmarks. Let's say you run into the extremely stubborn leader who argues, "Why create your own root questions if you can use someone else's?" You can attempt to explain why using someone else's requirements instead of determining your own is a bad idea. Or you can give him a copy of this book. Or you can get to work on the research and get it over with.

You'll need to get as much defined for your organization before comparing or seeking out examples. This includes root questions, metrics, and all of the components you will need. Get as much done as you can so that you clearly differentiate what you want from what your peers/compet.i.tors need. It will also give you something to barter with if your contemporaries are willing to share on a quid pro quo basis.

Do the Research.

Be ready to do the research. You can even have a positive (hopeful) att.i.tude! You never know, you may be the one organization that proves everything I've said wrong. You may be the exception to the rule.

The first thing to research is to identify your peers and compet.i.tors and find out if they have any metrics. You'll want to make sure the metrics they have (if any) are related to what you need (if you've been allowed to do any groundwork). Identify the areas you want examples for. If you succeeded in building as much of your development plan as possible, you will be able to better identify what you'd like to compare.

Deal with Failure.

Don't be surprised if you find that you are unique. Or that the organizations you believe are your perfect match either have no metrics or are unwilling to share what they do have. You may very well be ahead of the curve. Your needs may be unique. If so, you have to tell your leaders.h.i.+p that you have failed.

Of course, you did not actually fail. You were tasked to find examples. A legitimate result of research has to be that the hypothesis that you are addressing may be proven false.

Realize that your leaders.h.i.+p may consider you to have failed. While they asked you to find out if any metrics already exist, what they really wanted was for you to find a match so...

They wouldn't have to trust you to know what you were doing They'd have a warm fuzzy because someone else was already using them It would mean less work on everyone's part (including you); less cost, less time, and less effort

Deal with Success.

I expect you won't find an exact match, and suggest that you should be surprised if you do. It's rare. Be thankful if you also get that organization to freely share what they have and how to replicate it. Be even more thankful if they are willing to partic.i.p.ate with you in a benchmarking effort so that you both can benefit from the metrics. Even if this miracle occurs, realize it won't be for every metric.

Expect that even if you find some viable comparisons That they won't be for every root question The other organization may not be willing to share The other organization may not have any of the rigors I've recommended to accompany its information (no doc.u.mentation or development plan) Your exact match may not have the same definitions surrounding the data, measures, information, or metric. This means that you will need the raw data used to build the metric. Unfortunately, this increases the likelihood that the other organization will not want to share.

The other organizations will want something in return-even if it's just to see your raw data. Your leaders.h.i.+p may not be willing to share.

Expect that your leaders.h.i.+p's reactions to your research will not make you feel successful. Chances are they will decide that the examples you found are not a good match or simply not good enough (this may be a good thing -but after the joy you'll feel in finding them, you may forget that I wanted you to embrace your uniqueness).

Your leaders.h.i.+p may feel you failed, especially if you have nothing to show for the effort. If that were the end of the tasking, you could count your blessings. Most likely though, your leaders.h.i.+p will want you to try again. They may even provide you with their peers' contact information.

Another possibility is they may decide to bring in outside help, because they are convinced that you didn't look in the right places, didn't ask the right people, or just didn't understand what they wanted.

Is It Really That Bleak?

Yes, I painted a pretty bleak picture. And I could tell you that from my experience that I was actually being very realistic, but I could have perhaps let you down with a little more compa.s.sion.

I don't agree.

In the case of embracing your organization's uniqueness I again feel it necessary to give you "tough love" rather than give you the flowery picture. You have to know what you may encounter so you can be prepared for it and react properly.

The martial arts teach that we should be like water. This means that you react exactly proportional to the stimulus, not more not less, and then return to a steady, calm state. When you drop a pebble into a pool of still water, ripples fan out from the center and dissipate until the surface returns to the calm that preceded the change. Hopefully this calm, steady state is one of happiness; if not, you may need to find a new job. I've found that you can only react appropriately if you are either a Zen master or if you can antic.i.p.ate the size of the pebble hitting your pool.

So, I try to give you what I've found to be the most likely response, not to depress or scare you, but to make it easier for you to be like water and react appropriately if my prediction comes true.

Why Embracing Your Uniqueness Is Healthy.

It doesn't require a lot of research to realize that the most successful companies and people are those who have embraced their unique strengths. I recently put together a presentation on visionaries, and each has two things in common.

First, they all have a compelling, life-changing, positive vision (I avoided those megalomaniacs with visions to take over the world).

Second, they all embraced their unique qualities and made them strengths. From creators and inventors like Albert Einstein, Dr. Marie Curie, Henry Ford, Leonardo da Vinci, Granville Woods, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs, we learn that uniqueness in inventiveness isn't enough. You need to embrace those unique ideas and trust in them. You have to have faith in yourself and your ideas. A good example would be Herbert Kelleher, who took Southwest Airlines to new heights by embracing its uniqueness. He built a successful pa.s.senger airline that continues to withstand downturns in the industry. The company does it with a unique style and sense of humor. Southwest Airlines definitely side-stepped the "norm" the other airlines wallowed in, and embraced its uniqueness. Your organization may have unique ways of doing business, like those brought out by Herb Kelleher.

The ability to maintain faith in your convictions, principles, and values requires that you believe in yourself or your organization. Almost all innovators have to weather the storm of ridicule from their peers, many of whom would rather say something can't be done than to watch it happen.

Colonel Billy Mitch.e.l.l (father of the US Air Force), Father Edward Sorin (founder of the University of Notre Dame), W. Edwards Deming (father of Total Quality Management), Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), and Bruce Lee (founder of Jeet Kune Do) all had to withstand the slings and arrows of naysayers. In most cases, their biggest opponents were their friends, family, and countrymen. What makes their ideas live on successfully today is a result of their dedication to their ideas. But that dedication wasn't easy. Their ideas were seen as non-status quo. Against the establishment. Ideas that would require a drastic change in the way things had always been done. Your organization may have unique, innovative ideas about how things should be. You have to embrace that uniqueness and make it the strength of your organization.

OK, so your organization may not have a vision that will change the world. You may not be moving mountains and changing lives. Perhaps you're just trying to provide needed services. Perhaps you're just trying to make a living.

But should you? Should you be doing more? Should your organization have a bigger purpose? A vision?

Why not?

If you do or not, if you organization does or not, you still should embrace your uniqueness. You should not conform to what others are doing just because "that's what's always been done" or "because that's what everyone else is doing."

Here's a more concrete example (in case the previous was too abstract). Let's say your company is concerned about where it stands in relation to its compet.i.tors. Let's say it looks at the metrics published by its top compet.i.tor and your leaders.h.i.+p decides to change so that it matches this compet.i.tor.

Let's say both organizations are relatively successful, but in some ways they are unique. For example, Organization 1 has a ratio of one IT support person for every ten people supported. Organization 2 has a drastically different ratio-one IT support person for every fifty people. Organization 1 is entirely US-based while Organization 2 outsources support to a country overseas.

So, after research and metrics gathering, Organization 2 decides that it will change its support model to be more like Organization 1. It believes it will have the success that Organization 1 has. Organization 2 wants the positive press that having a US-based support unit brings and the leaders.h.i.+p believes the smaller support-to-customer ratio will build better relations.h.i.+ps with customers and improve customer satisfaction.

So Organization 2 spends a lot of resources to change its support model and move its operations back to the United States. It also hires more IT support staff to meet the example of Organization 1. The changes take 18 months to complete.

And Organization 2 sees gains from the change and is happy with it.

At about the same time, Organization 1 announces that it has moved its IT support function overseas. The leaders.h.i.+p of Organization 1 had looked carefully at its closest compet.i.tor (Organization 2) and decided it wanted the economy of scale that the other company had. By supporting more customers with fewer workers and moving support services overseas, Organization 1 expected to see cost savings that it could return to its customers. It hoped this would generate higher levels of customer satisfaction. It also hoped more customers would try its services since they would be able to offer a more compet.i.tive price (like Organization 2-before it changed its model).

Organization 1 is also happy with the change.

Far-fetched? Not really. Sports teams do it, companies do it, inst.i.tutions of higher education do it. But the ones that can weather the storms are the ones who embrace their uniqueness and believe in themselves.

Rather than look for benchmarks to determine what is good, you have to be able to determine what is good based on your organization's values, principles, and purpose. If you independently determine what good is, then you can find others who meet your criteria. This will allow you to learn from others; not copy or use their root questions and their metrics. But it will allow you to leverage their experiences.

To be truly successful, you have to define success for yourself. You have to embrace your uniqueness.

Recap.

It's OK to be unique. While it would be nice if we could find our exact match, our organizational twin, it is unlikely to happen. And if it does, chances are our mirror image will not have all of our metrics questions answered.

We have to embrace our uniqueness and create metrics that fit our specific and special needs. We can and should leverage any existing metrics we can find-but we have to do it with the purpose of using them as a guide rather than a set of ready-made answers.

If we can focus on our unique strengths and weaknesses, we will create metrics that have meaning in our environment.

Conclusion.

Organizations are complex living organisms. If your metric program is intended to help your organization improve, you will have to embrace your organization's uniqueness. It is your organization's uniqueness that will give it the opportunity to excel.

A P P E N D I X.

Tools and Resources.

Tools can be (and often are) confused with resources. I'll use a simple delineation between the two. Tools are items that can be used to do-to actually design, create, a.n.a.lyze, and publish metrics. An example is Microsoft Excel.

On the other hand, resources are reference in nature and provide information that provides guidance or knowledge used for designing, creating, a.n.a.lyzing, and publis.h.i.+ng metrics. Rather than an a.n.a.lysis tool (like Minitab), resources include textbooks on how to use software or perform statistical a.n.a.lysis, how-to videos, articles, blogs, books, and discussion groups (such as those found on networking sites like LinkedIn). There are also organizations (new and established) that you can join and partic.i.p.ate in to learn more about metrics.

In this appendix, I'll share some of my favorite tools and some that come highly recommended by colleagues and friends. Please don't buy any of these tools on the basis of their inclusion here; instead, if something sounds good to you, research it further. Just as with metrics themselves-you'll need to marry the possibilities to your specific requirements. Based on your root questions, your environment, and the programs you develop-different tools and resources may be called for.

Tools.

Some tools play multiple roles, but most specialize in a primary function and have other functions as a supplement. Most trouble-ticket tracking tools work this way. They are designed (and do a good job at) capturing and tracking trouble tickets, and may also provide basic graphing tools. They don't provide much in a.n.a.lysis; and provide nothing toward being a complete metric tool. But trouble-tracking tools are good at what they are supposed to do. The key is not to try to make a specific tool do more than it is designed to do.

The really good news is that a meaningful and useful metrics program doesn't require a ton of statistical a.n.a.lysis or complicated charting. Always keep in mind that the purpose of a metrics program is to provide insights that can support decisions, direct investigations, and expose areas of concern.

Metrics: How to Improve Key Business Results Part 29

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