Performance measurement has become a little like the weather, everyone talks about it but very few do anything about it. We need to do something.
Numerical facts make up an increasing part of the information needed to understand our world and our organization. Rates of inflation and growth, costs per unit, market share, customer satisfaction levels, average incomes, cycle time, unemployment rates, value of the dollar, oil prices, program outcomes – it seems we are overwhelmed with data. It shouldn’t be surprising then, that the problem today is not so much obtaining data but rather getting good data and separating the wheat from the chaff.
Data is the window through which we gain understanding and insight about what is going on in the world. It keeps us grounded and in touch with reality. If our data is suspect or of poor quality so will be our understanding.
Few understand how to work with data. Too often, information is incorrectly gathered or gathered only to support current biases and beliefs. Interpretations become suspect, proper analytical tools are not used and variation is neither understood nor appreciated. The result is that the window to reality becomes opaque.
Organizations that fail to use data soon lose touch with reality. They begin operating according to tradition, opinion and bias. Things are done the way they are because that’s the way they’ve always been done. The organization fails to apply the reality test and, therefore, leaves its prejudices and problems unchallenged and intact.
Good performance measurement keeps us grounded in touch with the real world. Are we getting better or worse? How good is our performance — really? It doesn’t matter if you are measuring general organizational indicators, program outcomes, service levels, manufacturing efficiency, customer or employee satisfaction, process cycle times, accident rates, downtime, failure rates, the temperature of the planet or the consistency of your mother’s apple pie — measurement is the reality test.
Good and Bad Measurement Systems
How can you tell if your performance measurement is working well or not? Well, here are two indicators:
First, does your system fail to provide some definitive answers? Performance measurement is intended to provide answers, not raise more questions. If you still don’t know how good your performance is, then you have a problem with your performance measurement system.
Second, is your performance management system heavily reliant on summary statistics? Good performance measurement is almost universally graphical using standardized data visualizations such as control charts, run charts, analytic histograms and scatter plots that present the data in detail and analyze it in one go.
Third, is all the data going to the upper levels of the organization? It’s good to keep management informed but not at the expense of those in the front lines that can react to trends and actually take remedial action to ensure operations stay on track.
Some Of Our Work
- The Alberta Government wanted a review of how data for The Measuring Up program was reported and analyzed. We reviewed the methodologies employed and made recommendations to improve the analysis and interpretation of the data.
- Telus Mobility wanted to reduce the volume of performance reporting information produced. We delivered workshops to data analyst specialists on how to properly gather, organize, analyze and interpret data. The workshops emphasized proper data analysis tools and interpretation to reduce the amount of paper involved while increasing the value-added content of the information being provided.
- Mobil Oil hired Converge to review the data gathering and analysis processes at it gas plants in Western Canada. We made significant revisions to the measurement process, reducing the time involved in providing the reporting while increasing the usefulness of reports. We also provided training to plant operators allowing them to conduct local performance problem analysis.