Table of Contents:
Who Should Measure?
The measuring is as much about involvement of the team as the review of the results of the measurement are, or at least it should be. The goal is not to run as quickly as possible, but to move as much of the team toward this understanding of the present process or situation, as well as deriving methods for improvement. To do this requires involvement in the objective in such a way to facilitate team learning. This does not happen from reading a book or searching a database for something the team member may know nothing about. How do you search for something that you do not know exists?
In many cases measurements are automated when the process has a simple such as an assembly line or other simple process. In fact, we have seen this automation of data collection come with some downside, as the team members no longer are concerned about the process data since it is automated and on display for all to see. Perrhaps this is an overconfidence in the automated system, that creates a gap in the team members attention and knowledge.
While these throughput numbers can point to and organization or product functionality issues* they rarely provide a revelation or connection to true process improvement. When you couple this with the flaws inherent to individual data collection it would seem there is no real answer to who, what, when, where, and
how data for change should be collected. So, how do we proceed? Let us think first of the system and how it is comprised. To answer the “who” question we need only determine the purpose of the data collection. When we understand who will be affected by the changes facilitated by the data and how that relates to the system as a whole we will understand those groups and teams that should be collecting and analyzing it. The key here is systems thinking in that it provides us an understanding of the ties between processes and thus facilitates a more effective change because it is aligned with the larger parts of the organization
How Do We Turn Data into Information?
The approach we take to analyzing this raw information will be influenced by what it is that is desired to be learned. In an earlier chapter, there was a review of common Total Quality Management (TQM) tools that help to turn data into information from which learning and subsequent action can be taken. These tools can facilitate understanding and it is beneficial for many if not all of our team members to be
Figure 5.4 The importance of experience on learning is demonstrated in Kolb experiental learning theory.
skilled in these techniques. If we approach the data that has been collected with a specific item to be learned then that is all we shall find, and we may not find data that helps in understanding that specific item. Care should be employed not to miss the hemorrhaging part of a process because we are looking for a splinter. The Pareto analysis is a good TQM tool to help us prioritize.
If we look at Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, we see four stages of learning. You are probably asking, “Why are we talking about learning in the section of turning data into information?” Turning data into information and then using that information to facilitate a depending action is the very definition of the learning process. Kolb’s model consists of four sections: Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization, and Active Experimentation, with each stage both being supported and supported by its predecessor and successor. We are discussing this because to change the raw data into information we need experience with how the system operates or should operate and an open mental model about how the system can and should be affected by external forces.
How Do We Display?
It is important to remember that this exercise in measuring and understanding is not just for the person making the measurements, that specific department, or just for management. It is for all our team members. A part of the goal is to propagate all the learning in the company, through the many experiments that are underway at any given time within in the organization. As the saying goes, “it is okay to make
Figure 5.5 Project dashboards display the state of the project for all to see.
mistakes” but the appendage to that saying can often be “but can’t we make different mistakes for a change.”
There are several ways in which displaying the measurement results. For example, manufacturing organizations may have electronic signs around the facility that presents the latest state of the key performance information (KPI) for the various departments as well as the company at large. The data may be presented in graphical form as a dashboard of performance of the collection of key metrics of the company. In fact, it is quicker for the mind to assimilate a collection of ideas. Reading and understanding takes time, graphical representations can be more quickly understood. The problem is when the graphical representation becomes so remedial that actual imparting specific information, is impossible - think the green smiley face graphic, everything is going well. By what measure?
Projects require measurements the same as operations of the organization. In fact, organizations with mature project management practices, will often have project dashboards that keep key elements of the project easily visible. In agile or lean approaches, this dashboard may be stripped down, but the dashboard still exists. In these instances we may use a Kanban approach to the work flow and measures, a quick Trello example is provided (we use the product but have no business connections to the product).
The data gathered and the objective will have some bearing on how the data is displayed. An executive may not always need to see the minute division of the data where project managers and team members will need more specific information as their understanding of the system is more detailed and they are responsible for taking action or overall interacting with the system.
It is beneficial to make these data display systems as prominent as possible within the organization or the department. Displays that figure prominently in the organization make it possible for other departments to see the state of their work and connecting work. A constant focus on the things the company believes important helps instill focus and can help reinforce the cultural connection to the measurements.
Figure 5.6 Kanban boards can be used for project management as well, this one is an online version called Trello.
Design Process Performance Metrics which Drive Improvement
The first step of designing process performance metrics for improvement is understanding what to measure and the why behind that measurement. This should be approached in a twofold manner: one for the issues which impede the growth or change and another for nature of the change itself. This is that change and/or development has two distinct parts: those actions or items which make it grow and sustain it, and those actions or items which naturally inhibit or slow its development. In the book “The Dance of Change” by Peter Senge this topic is related to biological growth. For an organism to grow it must have certain things it requires, and this and other factors naturally inhibit this growth
While it would seem that these topics belong in the preceding chapter they are more integral to developing a useful metric through process understanding than they are in developing the ideas for a change.
Inhibitors to Change
If we use the model of biological growth like Senge does in The Dance of Change, we can see that anything that promotes growth or development can also be an inhibitor. This can result in a demonstration of the theory of constraints. The process is developed, puts demand upon resources, this demand it takes more resources which begins to reduce the rate of growth. At some point could and probably will actually diminish throughput and growth. Looking for these types of links, System Thinking,1 between the change and its resources we can identify resource indicators that becomer metrics that will key us into these constraints before they occur. Another point in the resource are is, “How many other areas rely on that resource and what is their rate of development or growth in that resource?”
Some of these types of inhibitors may require more of a non-quantifiable way of measuring due to being more of a cultural dynamic of the organization itself. There may be no tangible quantifiable measurements to gage progress or limits. There may be a qualifiable metric or event that can help us to glean some perspective. According to Burke in his book Organization Development, A Process of Learning and Change is best done by identifying the critical values and incorporating them within the organizations behavior, thus promoting the cultural changed Qualitative data may not be possible, then develop qualitative measurements to ascertain some connection or correlation between the efforts undertaken and the desired impact
Figure 5.7 Sorting out how to approach organization change is like untangling a tangled up mess.
on the behavior and culture of the organization. It should be acknowledged that the qualitative mechanism may be more difficult to identify and assess, but these are still useful. A behavioral change or cultural change could be assessed with quantifiable data, but this attribute might take more time to develop into something measurable.
Necessary Change Items
We have reviewed numerous items that are required for change, but not addressed how to determine a link between a growth enhancing item and the change itself. Since we have discussed growth items previously, we will be using this section to discuss how to determine change items. One may think this is an easy process, but in truth it is one if not the primary reason most changes fail after the’ initial surge. This topic is also important when determining how and what to look at for the analysis of a change. Let’s continue the example of a plant. When we think of what a plant needs to grow we think of water, sunlight, and soil. This is true for the initial growth of the plant, but when we delve further into the development or growth of the plant we see things like space for the roots, restrictions on the available sunlight due to other plants, seasonal dynamics, compatibility with plants in the same area, and we could keep going with the list, but the point has been made. When we look at a change in the long term we can apply these types of dynamics, and when we do, we also see that even a small or seemingly small change can have further reaching dynamics than we first thought. This type of thinking or analysis is a combination of both Peter Senge’s “The Fifth Discipline”  and his book “The Dance of Change”' and W. Warner Burke’s book “Organization Development, A Process of Learning and Change,” just for starters.
Applying the principles of growth (change) analysis previously discussed, will help in sustaining development and potentially change. There are also other items or issues that will need to be addressed to take the potential for actual change and development. One other such item or issue would be the nature of a habit. While we did not address “habits” in the previous section specifically we pointed to other inhibitors to change and we address it here because it is key to making a change stick instead of allowing the situation to revert back to a previous condition and then thinking the change was ineffective. Habits, good or bad, are or have become part of our subconscious mind and any change to that habit requires effort and energy, which is naturally resisted unless the gain perceived or reality is greater than the effort or energy expended for the change. When we apply this line of reasoning to our change and subsequently its analysis, we look for patterns: habit, reinforcement to sustain the desired change.
Associated Growth Metrics
In the previous two sections we have discussed inhibitors to change and necessary items for change and how they relate to the system as a whole, the group, and the individual through our example of the growth cycle of plants. When we apply these type of analytics to our change during its development we can better understand how to see the indications of a change throughout an organization. It would seem that we may have gotten in front of ourselves by saying “analytics”. However, this is not actually the case. When we are first designing or creating a change we should think of the possible outcomes and how they would manifest themselves as information or signs within our organization. This perspective also pushes those developing the change to view the system as a whole for that change and not just focus on a selective portion of or process associated within the organization, which is another reason for change failure as we have discussed previously and is a prime example of stage three tribal leadership or rice bowl mentality that plagues many managers and organizations.
Under the aforementioned: the change to any one section of an organization or department should be developed with at least the portion of the organization that would naturally precede and follow the group. This review of the change through the work pipeline can assure the change has no adverse impact. I like to coin this as supplier-user-customer organizational dependency, though this dependency is all within the organization and may actually consist of more than the three groups depicted due to there being more than one of each section: supplier, user, or customer.