Monday, January 18, 2016

Creating Performance Metrics is Just the Beginning

Many times over the last two years I have worked with clients that wanted to create performance metrics for their organizations.  The clients have often thought that once you have these metrics the skies are blue and everything is done.  Well, unfortunately that can’t be farther from the truth.  Once performance metrics are created, organizations automatically set the expectation that “things are different” and we are now “accountable.”  What if the culture is one where metrics have not been important and performance is not a top priority?  The next issue after metrics are created becomes that of the potential of uncovering inefficient processes.  Now what? Who is in charge of re-engineering that process?  Who is going to make sure our culture is performance based?

The key is to make sure when you are considering creating performance metrics whether in HR or any other function in the organization that you use the best practice of including change management and process improvement in the initiative.  All three parts are essential for metrics to be successful. 

I had the honor of discussing this three-pronged approach with two very smart colleagues of mine, SusanHagood, Evolution Management, Inc. and AliciaButler Pierre, Equilibria, Inc.    Susan is a subject matter expert in the area of Change Management and Alicia in the area of process improvement.  Below are some of their observations regarding the need to take a more holistic approach when creating performance metrics.

Change Management
In todays ever changing business environment change is becoming the norm for most organizations.  I think about my clients and it’s easier to count the ones that DON’T have a change in progress. 

When embarking on establishing performance metrics organizations are best served when changes to people, process and practices are considered and acted upon.  .  Metrics can uncover inefficiencies, skill gaps and production issues.  With this in mind, employees need to understand WHY the organization is moving in a direction of higher performance.  The need for clarity is probably the one of the most basic components of change.  Explaining the WHY behind the WHAT goes a long way with employees.  This message needs to come from the top down and not be in “consultant speak”, but in words that employees can relate to. 

In order to get buy in from employees on the upcoming change Ms. Hagood suggests:

“From a change management perspective, it’s important to invite the employee to share their ideas about the efficiencies and continuous improvement of their roles and responsibilities.   They are on the front line – what does it take to be successful? What would make the work easier, faster, and more customer-focused?  It’s very important with any personal change that is going to be required of an employee that they understand why the change is necessary and that they have a voice in what that change will look like.  Encouraging the dialogue and planning that supports change planning can be very motivating and exciting to the employee – just the type of engagement the employer is looking for”

Ms. Hagood, discusses the importance of communications throughout the change initiative:

“During times of change – remember to communicate as frequently as possible through as many avenues as possible, since employees may not be exposed to certain messages.   You can’t communicate too much.”

To read more from Debbie King also from Evolution Management and Susan on change click here. 

Process Improvement

Many times as organizations will measure cycle times, backlogs, quality and customer service, which can point to a need for process improvement.   When this is the case it’s important to keep in mind, the process owner. 

According to Alicia Butler Pierre, “Process owners have the responsibility of ensuring that: 1) the process works, 2) people know the process and how to follow it, and 3) the right metrics are being used to track performance. “

When asked, “How would you ensure that the metrics are used to actually improve the process?” Ms. Pierre offered this insight:

“Processes and metrics go hand-in-hand and both should be tied to performance evaluation.  Otherwise, they will simply sit on the shelf and collect dust.  Processes are intended to be fluid, not static.  In fact, the lack of change usually means the lack of innovation and growth for the organization.  If you aren’t measuring, then you aren’t improving and if you aren’t changing, then you aren’t growing.”

“The Six Sigma methodology offers a proven formula to ensure processes and their associated metrics are used for continuous improvement.  It includes using historical data to first define a baseline or expected level of performance of a process.  Afterwards, you can measure and track metrics on a graph to monitor upward or downward trends.    Upward trends could indicate a rock-star performer.  Downward trends could indicate that either the process needs to be improved or the performer may need additional training."

Using the right metrics along with a solid change management plan allows Process Owners to identify when poor performance is the result of a process or people-related problem.  To read more about this, click here.

Metrics are designed with continuous improvement in mind, whether it is people, process or practice related.  Having sound change management and process improvement principles will ensure successful measurement outcomes.