Friday, April 22, 2011

From Here to There… and Beyond

If you don’t measure it, you can’t change it!
If you don’t know what your goal is, any path will take you there.

Today everyone measures this, that and the other thing. We track mileage, checking account status, minutes to the store, website traffic, hours worked, days until… We measure, measure measure.

However, many of our measures are not focused on a goal. Tracking mileage is only useful when applied to a goal such as decreasing gallons of gas per mile.

As I work with various organizations developing learning solutions, I ask them about their goals. What do you want to accomplish with this learning solution? What will change in your organization, if we implement this? How will you determine whether this project was successful or not? These questions open the dialogue about both goals and measures.

Amazingly, many businesses do not really know what their goal is or how to measure it. They are measuring and measuring but not measuring the indicators that will guide them toward improved goal-states.


Where's the improvment? (A Case Study)

Like many organizations with training or learning functions measure, XYZ Corp tracks the number of learners they serve, the number of hours per learning event, and the learner-satisfaction rating for their learning solutions. When asked what they wanted to accomplish with a new employee orientation program, they were uncertain how to answer the question. Literature says that new employee orientation improves employee satisfaction, increases their longevity with the organization, increases their loyalty to the organization and increases customer satisfaction. However, other than customer complaints, XYZ was not measuring any of the other factors. They just felt that new employee orientation would be a good idea.

It’s endemic. Measurements abound, while visionary goals remain unmeasured.

As the seasons turn and your goals shift with them. Consider the way you measure your success. Are you growing roses because the rose bush was there when you bought the house? Is it enough to plant a garden full of vegetables only to let them wither on the vine because you don’t have time to can them or the knowledge to freeze them? If you plant, tend, harvest and store this year’s crop, how will you know whether the effort saved you money or not? How will you know whether your crops are lower in pesticides and higher in nutrition than the same products sold in your local grocery? Is feeling good about harvesting your own produce enough for you to measure?

Don’t get me wrong. Feeling good about an end-product or even about the process of getting somewhere is a valid measure of success. It may be the only measure of the creative process involved. However, feeling good about an end-product is not a performance improvement measure.

In fact, performance improvement only comes when we can measure the input and output of a process (growing vegetables or roses, for example) and show that doing something differently changed the result in the desired direction (the goal.) That is, do we get more tomatoes (bigger roses) this year by going pesticide-free or did the lack of pesticides actually decrease our crop? We may be fine with the trade-off… or may need to continue our improvement project.

As the seasons change, as our economy changes, as we age and our families changes, as new technologies emerge... in this change of seasons and season of change, what is it that you want to accomplish (your goal) and how will you measure it?