Change, facts and impact

What gets measured gets done


November 2013


In a changeable world of management, full of acronyms and buzzwords, it is encouraging that there are, after all, concepts that have so much substance to them that they are as relevant today as they were 10 or 20 years ago. Quite funnily, they are often underrated - perhaps because they are so obvious.

Take, for instance, performance management, which we in Implement consider one of the most powerful management tools, especially in relation to changes that call for organisations and, thus, human behaviour to change.

No matter how long and deeply an overweight person ponders the best strategy for achieving a healthier life, in all probability, the end result will be a regimen of eating less and exercising more. It is not exactly hard to arrive at that insight. What IS hard is to actually live by that strategy! This is where performance management becomes relevant. For, as with any other behavioural change, it is incredibly difficult to work dedicatedly towards achieving a healthier life without first stepping up on the bathroom scales, get the shock over with and then subsequently measuring whether the changes made are having an impact.

Basic impact measurements are often "forgotten"

If we look at major organisational changes or large-scale system implementations, basic impact measurements are often "forgotten". Projects are typically initiated with the intention of easing the administrative burden, improving quality or increasing productivity, but we believe that the measurements that support attainment of the desired impact, like the bathroom scales in the example above, are in many cases not established early enough or, worse, are not established at all.

When you establish KPIs, you’ll find it is highly resource-intensive – do it anyway!

A key challenge, then, is that the rules have to be defined first. If, say, we want to measure productivity, we first have to define what that actually is in each specific case, which is not necessarily an easy task. In addition, performance management, including not least establishing the measurement system itself, is notthe organisation's primary focus in a change process. Often, this is regarded as a seperate project to be tagged ad hoc onto the change project. But this is not feasible - impact measurement and change are inextricably linked!

Without a system for impact measurement in place, there is a tendency to assess the project in isolation in terms of the individual project deliverables we have planned. We forget the overall purpose and find it difficult to answer the question as to why we have launched this particular initiative. That makes us reluctant to make any adjustments to the project content. And whereas the idea was to learn as the project proceeds, there is a great risk of ending up in a situation where the operation was successful, but the patient died.

Therefore, performance management holds water to this day. For whether we call it management by objectives, key performance indicators or some other term, it is highly recommendable to measure on indicators that give some pointers to the results we have achieved - and then, of course, to act on those results.

What is most thought-provoking is perhaps that it all starts with that little word "why". Why should I lose weight? Why do we need a new ERP system? "Why" is an amazing word that could easily replace a good many of the concepts that flourish in the world of management, but it is probably too obvious...