The key to using metrics to drive performance and improvement on a team is that this process must be bottom up. Now before everyone spits out their coffee let me reiterate that metrics developed at the front line whether it is office staff or operations MUST align with company goals and objectives. Leadership in turn carries the biggest burden for this task in that they communicate those company goals down to their teams and draw from their teams the metrics that align with those goals. Crews that understand company goals and develop metrics that align with those goals will "own" them. Ownership is key to performance improvement.
Let me share a short story of how powerful this is. A group that was responsible for plant operations had worked with their leadership to develop metrics and a process of reporting them. They had a bulletin board put up in the staff kitchen and everyone posted their daily results on the board. Crews would meet first thing at the start of the shift to allow each operator to report on the previous day’s results and to identify priorities for the upcoming shift. This was already a powerful process and the crew had taken ownership of their metrics and the process of reporting them. They had also begun to develop "opportunities lists" around discussion items from those meetings and were implementing local improvements to processes and safety. As a normal evolution of this process they had begun to experiment with spread sheets and dashboards. In fact, they had developed spreadsheets that literally could track all the daily events in the plant and that data connected individual results to team and company goals.
The crews felt empowered because their ideas and contributions to the success of the company were at least being considered. They now felt like a valued partner on the company "team."
That’s A Great Idea – Lets’ Help Out!
It was a vision to behold and as you would suspect news of the success of this group had indeed made its way to the upper echelons of the company leadership. These were all great ideas and if it worked for this group why not implement it with the rest? A group was tasked with finding a software program that could really expand what this crew was already doing and the management had some great ideas about things they wanted teams to track as well. Sure some of the terms for some of the metrics were different as was the interface so data entry was a bit different too but all in all they were pretty sure this would be a big win with the crews.
So the memo went out and the software was distributed. This particular crew instantly balked at the "heavy handed - top down" - manner that was used to implement this new program. It wasn't until I informed them that this new software was based upon collecting data they had already developed, only with different names for some of their metrics, did they understand what was really happening. Yet in spite of coming to this understanding they were unhappy and implementation was delayed because the crew balked at everything that was "different" from what they had developed. Why? Because in the company’s eagerness to support and drive what had started to happen with this group they had forgotten on key thing; to involve them.
I learned two powerful things that day, first communicate, communicate, communicate. Second, when you give your team permission to own performance remember that they will guard it jealously. The tradeoff for getting people to develop and align metrics with company goals is to make sure that you uphold those efforts. As much as possible keep them in the loop in terms of how what they are doing is going to impact change in the company and in turn how those changes are going to impact them.
Tail Wagging The Dog
They had a good software program but it felt too much like the tail wagging the dog to the folks who had done all the leg work developing the metrics and tracking approach. A small point perhaps but if ownership is key to driving performance then allowing some ownership and input around software implementation is also a small price to pay for a big return. Performance Leadership - Think About It!