Measure of Success
We’ve all heard the phrase, “What gets measured gets done” but what happens when there’s nothing to measure? Recently, I was involved in a project where there was noticeable delay in getting the numbers behind various performance indicators. As it turns out, the stall was due to the fact that there was so little activity to report, people were concerned that showing “no measurements” equated to showing “no work,” which I suspect was never the intention of the Management By Objectives (MBO) process.
But that is part of the problem, isn’t it? Processes that were defined by others, and have since lost meaning and/or relevance to the people [attempting to] adhering to them and resources being applied toward performance metrics, perhaps without regard to the actual quality of the product delivered. That is the fundamental challenge of MBO and without the right kind of leadership in place, it is a disaster waiting to happen. Or if it’s already happened, it’s a death-march spiral without end. As I watched this unfold in my own project, I know the solution required a different approach.
Instead of focusing on metrics, I turned my attention to improvements first. Whether this was a proper approach… well, that’s for someone else to determine. Make small and immediate improvements first, to get us out of the death spiral. Then, and only then, do the other de rigueur kick in. Until there is improvement to the current situation, any amount of planning, definition, standardization and/or management — perhaps most importantly — won’t yield realizable results. Then and maybe only then, would looking at the performance indicators make sense. Because then, it would actually mean something.