Stage 7: Measure to Improve
Getting work done may be a chaotic mad scramble to the bitter end, resulting in the finish line is often being met with such utter relief and exhaustion that teams immediately put the past behind them and move on. But turning your back and walking away means your team loses the chance to improve the process and help stave off the chaos in future projects.
Most of us consider measurement in terms of gauging the end result—campaign success, new product effectiveness, etc. But measuring your process is perhaps just as critical, and often overlooked. Studies show that only a third of companies actually measure employee productivity, and those that do are often unsatisfied with the measurement methods.
The Measurement Challenge
Effective measurement examines both process and results. Results can be measured quantitatively with hard data, but the work process is a bit more ephemeral, and many companies lack the means to do effectively measure it for several reasons:
• Everyone cares about and measures different things. For both teams and individuals across departments, “success” means different things. It could mean simply getting the work off their desk, into the hands of the receiving team. For others, it means staying under time and budget targets. Another group may focus on meeting strategic goals, regardless of time and budget. Without clearly defined metrics, everyone is marching to the beat of their own drummer.
• Measurement is not built into the work process, but saved for the very end, as conventional wisdom tells us that’s where it should be. But inevitably, one project follows another, leaving no time for the thorough retrospective you wanted The pace of work requires you quick movement, and valuable perspective you may have gained along the way is lost in the shuffle. Accordingly…
• Insight into what worked and what didn’t is outdated and incomplete. Once identification and planning stages begin again, the knowledge that would guide improvements in those areas is either missing—because it was never recorded in the first place—or outdated because the process and/or project has dragged on so long. That may mean that measuring process effectiveness in some way may still cause an…
• Inability to improve based on knowledge. Even if you have gathered information about what works along the way, your team or process may resist implementation of relevant changes. When team members disagree, management isn’t convinced, or the existing process leaves no wiggle room, incorporating lessons into work processes is virtually impossible. Even though you know better, mistakes are repeated.
Make Measurement a Priority
Continuous improvement is a popular goal, as companies try to exceed customer and shareholder expectations while staying stay ahead of the competition. But for those without an effective measurement system built into their work process, that improvement is more of a lofty ideal than a business plan.
Determining process efficacy at every step is critical to actually achieving continuous improvement. While often overlooked, this stage makes a tremendous difference in enhancing individual, team, and enterprise-wide effectiveness and success. Accurate, quantitative measurements can provide benchmarks to illustrate success to stakeholders. Instead of confusing the finish line with a win, effective measurement helps you win bigger, faster and more profitably. Here’s how:
1. Standardize measurement metrics, language, and purpose. Unite teams and the organization around specific parameters for success at each stage of the work process. Define these metrics based on the strategic business objectives that have guided your work at the planning and prioritization stages.
2. Define success up-front and don’t stop tracking it. Communicate how goals and achievements will be measured before the project even begins. Build measurement tactics into the work plan as part of the process, not an afterthought. Make sure to review all measured data at the project’s end and decide on future change implementation, but start gathering data now.
3. Use systems that give your team complete, accurate real-time visibility. Your data is only as effective as the tools used to gather it. Using tools and technology that streamline communication and integrate seamlessly into your unique work processes are ideal for tracking and measuring success without putting unnecessary status reports, meetings, or busywork on team members
4. Measure results, not just activities. Recording what you do is important, but so is documenting why and how well it worked and what you could improve. This helps enhance the quality and efficiency of the work the next time around while helping preserve and share institutional knowledge with new team members and departments for future availability.
Learning from the past is vital to improving the future. Measuring process effectiveness and end results while implementing necessary changes helps disupt the perpetual cycle of chaos and approach continuous improvement. Define what success looks like at every stage of the work process and conscientiously work toward those goals, and your team will have a much better chance of achieving your strategic vision. Gaining visibility into the status of work throughout its lifecycle helps everyone work smarter and more efficiently, saving everyone time, money, and resources, all while preserving institutional knowledge.