February 2, 2015

Performance Measurement

“If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.” – Peter Drucker
A few years ago, I decided that I was working all of the time and ignoring my health. I wanted to get down to what I weighed in college.  I wanted to keep it off, rather than losing it and gaining it back…so, I knew I had to make some changes.
As a performance measurement evangelist, I developed a simple chart to record my daily weight, diet and exercise, and kept if next to a new scale.  Every morning I would weigh myself and write it down.  Every night before going to bed, I would weigh myself and write it down, as well as what I did for exercise and a summary of what I ate, if it was beyond my normal intake.  I prepared a new sheet for each month, of course with time-series spark-line and bullet chart graphs.
I was surprised when I achieved my goal in only a few months.  What I learned was that by reminding myself in the morning and at night what I ate and how I exercised – or didn’t, I was able to hold myself accountable to achieve the goal I set for myself.  The simple introduction of timely performance feedback was all I needed.  I stopped maintaining my scorecard after about 1.5 years because I had achieved my goals and adopted the nutrition and exercise habits that help me stay healthy.  Discounting Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I’m about back to my target weight. J
I share this experience with you because I’ve seen similar progress happen when organizations start measuring business activities as they work to achieve a business objective.  Here’s what happens:
1.       There is an initial spike in process and outcome improvement, as employees learn that their work is being measured and everyone can see how they’re doing, compared to their peers and people in other locations. 
2.       Next, performance feedback is used to identify, prioritize and resolve performance deficits in processes that directly contribute to achieving targeted objectives.
3.       Finally, performance feedback helps team leaders and management identify opportunities for employees to receive knowledge and skills training, so they can continuously improve the quality, productivity and expense aspects of their work. 
Performance goals and measures constantly evolve as the organization and market change, and new information brings new insights providing guidance on how to most productively address those changes.
Because many of my clients are banks, let’s use the example of Customer Service Reps (CSRs) having the goal of opening ‘n’ New Accounts per month.  What might be the CSR’s activities that generate new accounts to enable them to achieve their goal?  Measuring the calls, personal contacts, referrals, e-mail messages and other current and prospective customer “touches,” paints a picture of CSR productivity and effectiveness.  Considering the differences in tenure, training, and other personal attributes, the content and quality of the customer/prospect contact can be assessed to identify opportunities for motivation, knowledge and skills development.  Continuous improvement produces high performance.
My own continuous improvement journey has lead me to discover and explore the teachings of Stacey Barr and Bob Behn, who both present good knowledge and guidance on how to maximize organizational performance with performance measurement.
Performance Analytics requires well-defined performance measures.  I recently discovered Stacey Barr, the Performance Measure Specialist, who lives in Australia, and has defined a process for developing and implementing performance measures.

I invite you to explore Stacey’s PuMP Performance Measure Blueprint Program.

Developing performance measures to guide continuous improvement throughout the organization is the goal.  Analytics provide timely, cost-effective performance feedback to contribute to achieving this goal.
Bob focuses his research, teaching, and thinking on the leadership challenge of improving the performance of public agencies: Performance Measurement, Management and Leadership.  As I’ve learned, however, the principles and practices that Bob presents are totally applicable to all public and private organizations. 
Bob presents his ideas on The Behn Report, where he examines “…the issues, dilemmas, challenges, and opportunities for improving performance and producing real results.”  While I have enjoyed reading all of Bob’s papers, the following extract from his November 2013 paper addresses what I believe are the key topics related to Performance Analytics.
There is, however, a significant difference between doing the measurement and doing the management. Furthermore, there is also an important difference between doing the management tasks and exercising real performance leadership. These differences are reflected in the operational questions that each ask:
For performance measurement, the operational question is: How can we measure what we are doing?
For performance management, the operational question is: What are our more significant “performance deficits,” and what is our strategy for eliminating or mitigating a few of the most important ones?
For performance leadership, the operational question is: How do we motivate everyone in our organization —and our collaborators, too —to pursue our strategy with intelligence, creativity, and persistence, and thus to eliminate these few important performance deficits?
Bob’s questions assume that organizations have the Analytics technologies and processes in place to capture performance measurement data, organize and analyze the data, and provide timely performance feedback across the organization…which is not always the case.  In addition, are organization’s leaders trained to use performance feedback to understand where employees need training and development to address performance deficits?
Sustained high performance requires effective performance measurement, management and leadership supported by an enterprise Performance Analytics program. 

Progress is being made, but there is still much to do.