“What gets measured, gets done!” Or so the saying goes. Similarly, I’ve heard the expression, “It’s not what you expect, but what you inspect.” Whatever your favorite expression, we acknowledge the importance of measurement. Leading change efforts should be no different, it is important that we learn to measure what we do and take the time to do it right.
What Do I Measure?
The simple answer to the question is measure what you care about and what is critical to success. It might seem like what we care about and what is critical to success are the same thing, but that is not always true. From a purely personal standpoint, many people in business are good at measuring personal income as a success measure for their careers but they forget to measure whether or not they are happy in the process. In a business context, the implementation of a new process might be critical to the overall project success, but caring about the effect that this new process is having on headcount might be more important. Similarly, I might care about how a particular technology is working (what I care about), but I should not forget to measure whether that technology is delivering the intended benefit to the company (what is critical). As a general rule, we think about certain types of measures as being important considerations to help projects account for both what they care about and what is critical.
- Behavioral measures – what behaviors will we see that tell us that people are changing their behavior?
- Process measures – do the processes being put in place work and deliver as designed or do they need to be adjusted?
- Leading measures – what milestones or interim signs are there that tell me we are headed toward a good outcome or that things we care about are OK?
- Lagging measures (or outcome measures) – how do will we know whether the change delivers on its intended benefit or promised outcome?
- Sustainability measures – how will we measure whether or not we have created a sustainable change, one that improves outcomes for either people, planet or profit (hopefully all three) without decreasing outcomes for either of the other two categories (people, planet, profit)?
How Many Measures?
The fewer the better. Start with the end in mind and determine what is really important, what you really care about and what is really critical to success. Those should be few in number. There is no one right answer, but I would think five or fewer measures are appropriate. Those are most likely the lagging measures, the outcomes that you desire. Working back from that point it is likely that you may have two to three times as many measures. As you get closer to the outcomes desired the number of metrics will decrease. For example, if the desired outcome is a faster response to customer inquiries, you’ll need to work back with interim measures that show whether the new technology is working as planned, whether the customer representatives are displaying the right behaviors, and whether the customer satisfaction is increasing or decreasing. As the technology demonstrates it is working, and the customer representatives are demonstrating the desired behaviors, your attention will turn to the overall outcome measure of response to customer inquiries. Initially, as you begin the change, your customer response rate may decrease, but as employees become familiar with what to do and which tools are available, that time should improve. That is why interim or leading indicators become so important because the lagging or outcome measures are harder to see clearly at the beginning of a change.
Benefits of Measures
Strategically, measures help focus people’s attention and provide a clear view of what the future looks like. All too often organizations set out on a change program to “improve the bottom line,” but people aren’t sure what that means. Leaders need to provide clear direction, and at least one part of that clear direction is to provide a measure so employees and leaders alike know what is expected and what success looks like. At the tactical level, thorough, well thought-out measurement programs have the ability to uncover unintended consequences, identify bottlenecks, and forecast potential areas of challenge, so that astute change leaders can adapt and adjust appropriately.
Whether your change program is big or small, strategic or tactical, a good measurement program can be your ally. We measure budget, we measure task completion, why not take the time to understand what is really important and what really matters and measure that as well. Why not measure success? Why not measure behavior? Why not measure sustainability?
Need some help figuring out which measures lead to what is really important? Give us a call. We’re Expressworks and we know that change is inevitable, but results…are intentional. Be intentional about your measurement program.