25 things (that just might work) about measuring the right thing

I’ve concocted 25 suggestions, questions, hints and tips for a colleague policy officer who has seen the systemsy light yet still faces the task that everybody else hasn’t. Here they are. One just might work. All might be complete duff. No matter, it was my last day at work before my holidays so it was this or sorting out my inbox. Here are 25 things to do with measuring the right thing.

  1.  It’s all about changing management thinking, so if managers brains are not physically and metaphorically in the room you’re not changing management thinking
  2. To change management thinking you have to work at the cognitive level, not the email level, the meeting level or the report level. See point 1.
  3. Ask performance staff what measures they have in their scorecard that this pie-chart applies to…

    Always. No, wait….

  4. Or just tell them
  5. Trying to turn performance people against scorecards, targets and binary comparisons is like trying to persuade people who make a living from producing scorecards, targets and binary comparisons that producing scorecards, targets and binary comparisons is worthless and harmful. See point 1.
  6. Find a manager with a problem they can’t solve and want help with. All managers have problems. How to make a better scorecard is not one of them.
  7. Nobody needs persuading to learn how to eat cake. If they don’t want to pull for help on their problem, they don’t have a big enough problem.
  8. They actually do, they just don’t know they do.
  9. This is from someone’s LinkedIns profile, it says it neater than I’ve ever read. Every morning recite this mantra into the bathroom mirror. I am a tiger, raarrr.

    It is my aim to help organisations break away from gimmick and tool based projects to understand what truly drives improvement. Only with a thorough understanding of an organisation and utilisation of their own gifted people can leaders achieve real, sustainable improvement. To do this requires two skills: the ability to understand an organisation as a complex system and secondly the ability to move that organisation with intervention methodology to a new way of working. I work with clients to help them in these two areas of expertise to achieve stunning results and transfer expertise to design myself out of their organisation in the process. I only consider those programmes which have continued to drive improvement over time as the true success stories. Uninterested in modern fads, I find the key to success is the implementation of simple, proven theory in a practical context.

  10. The simple test of a measure is “Can this measure help me understand and improve?” This pre-supposes that this is what is expected from a measure. In a world of challenge and defend, demonstrating and celebrating, this has never been seen before with measures. You are talking magic at them and they won’t believe you until a rabbit actually does appear out of a top-hat. This is normative learning.
  11. There are three ways things change in organisations, only one of which will work in this case…
    1. Coercion: “You see a rabbit coming out this top-hat, alright. It is a corporate requirement that you do.”
    2. Logical/rational: “See this top-hat, I’m telling you that a rabbit is coming out of it, because if you look at the space between my hands and the top-hat it is clearly rabbit shaped and the same size as a rabbit too.”
    3. Normative: “Look!” [point at rabbit coming out of hat]
  12. The characteristics of a bad measure are what performance people aspire to having been told for years by my very team that this is the right thing to do. What will their response be to being told it was all wrong. What would anybodies response be?
  13. The right measures come from the right thinking. It is much easier to do it this way round. Performance people who get into this sort of thing may do so as a result of coming at it from seeing how measures are being done wrong. But that’s their problem. Not a managers’ problem. Getting the right measures comes a low 74th on the list of their problems. See point 6.
  14. If you don’t know what you’re measuring or why, any random measure is as good as any other. This results in a never-succesful endless hunt for “the right measure”. Hence people that think they have a measurement problem, one they can never solve. They don’t, but they don’t know it. This is because they have a thinking-about-the-work problem. Talking about measures might be a way in, but its just a way in. Not the problem itself.
  15. Ask people to split all their scorecard measures into one of three categories. All are good, but used in different ways.
    1. Customer satisfaction-how well customers feel  we give them what matters. A useless measure given the way we do it normally I reckon, but its canon.
    2. Capability-how well the service delivers what matters to the customer. eg time to solve problem completely.
    3. Process measures-how well the customer demand flows through the service, measures of the workflow that predict impact on delivering capability eg errors, time work has been waiting . etc. Then see how many of all these measures are capability measures. This is the key measure of how well the system is working. IT’S PURPOSE. If any measure should be going outside the service for others to peruse at a strategic level, it is this. I’ve never seen any.
  16. Question for managers : “If you never saw these performance measures, what would you do differently?”
  17. Question for performance people: “What would YOU do with these scorecard measures?”
  18. Question for both: “What is it you get out of performance monitoring?”
  19. Question for both: “Would you give us some time to work with you to make a different kind of measure, for you to compare its usefulness
  20. Question for the Boardroom: “if reporting these measures to this room drove the wrong type of behaviour, would you stop? How do you know it isn’t?”
  21. Question for the Boardroom, if yes: “What would you do instead?”
  22. Question for all: “Is it about improving performance measures or about improving performance? What is the difference?”
  23. I once was a directorate performance management person who DID know all this stuff and it got me nowhere. The problem is baked into the role, as the role is shaped by management thinking.
  24. I used to try and change OTHER directorate peroformance management people, who didn’t know this stuff. This got me nowhere as the problem is baked into the role, and the role is shaped by management thinking.
  25. Point 1 is the only point that matters.
This entry was posted in command and control, data, me doing it, public sector, systems thinking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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