Would a dressmaker take a bride’s measurements after her wedding dress is already made? Of course not! Those critical dimensions are always gathered before the sewing begins. So why do so many businesses insist on measuring staff performance after the work is done? It would seem that a better approach would be to track performance as work is executed, so that there is ample time to make mid-course adjustments and provide the coaching and guidance needed to improve business outcomes.
So, again, I ask, “Why do we do it that way?”
Let’s face it, the act of gathering performance data, calculating findings and reporting results can be mind-numbing when done after the fact. Besides limiting opportunities for early management intervention, the effort is time consuming and often amounts to little more than an additional process overhead. Instead, measurement processes should be integrated into the execution environment and done seamlessly as work is performed.
By putting performance tracking software “on top” of the workflow, performance metrics can be produced as a direct by-product of doing the work. In fact, when performance measurement systems are implemented in this way, sub-optimal work can be recognized as it is being done and corrective action can be taken on the spot. This promotes collaboration among management and staff and leads to better outcomes for the business and its customers.
Over time, improved strategic alignment is achieved as mission-critical performance information becomes more available for analysis, enabling the fine-tuning of performance metrics.
If you like the possibilities that measurement and execution integration has to offer? Here are some suggestions to consider from my most recent book (The Executive Checklist, (Palgrave, 2014)).
- A business re-engineering process analyzing core business practices must be performed to ensure that relevant and efficient work processes are automated and that the automation includes a performance tracking capability;
- A process for determining the evolving performance measurement information needs within the organization should be established to ensure that the “right” information is being captured for solid decision-making;
- Easy and flexible access to the performance measurement information by both personnel and their management should be enabled through automation. In this way, the workforce can make adjustments and learn through experience tracking;
- Software tools that allow users to query information databases on an ad-hoc basis (and control the appearance of report contents) are an important way to improve productivity. So reporting capabilities should be included in any performance measurement toolset;
- Executive information systems will need to be designed to provide senior management with summary information and the ability to ‘drill down’ and display as much detail as needed for proper decision-making.
To close, integrating your performance measurement and execution environments are the first steps towards establishing a “learning organization” that grows stronger with time as confidence and determination grows within the rank and file. And when that occurs, watch out, because your organization will be better aligned and your business results will sky-rocket.