You cannot manage what you cannot measure…

Man measuring distance with caliper

“ cannot manage what you cannot measure…”

In the last few blogs we have tried to give some insight into the starting point of a change or transformation project and also some ideas on how to get under the skin of the organisation and understand what is ACTUALLY going on.   The aim is an improved understanding of change requirements and getting change projects of on the right foot.  Change is a processes  and it is equally important to understand where the project stands at any particular point so that one can understand whether the plan needs modification and also to provide encouragement to stake holders in the project that things are being achieved.  As W E Demming (one of the architects of Japan’s industrial renaissance in 1950s & 1960s) is reported to have said “….you cannot manage what you cannot measure…”

Many of the project management software packages have a facility to track progress often  indicating 50% through this & 25% through that – this feels like a measurement of progress, but it seldom is.  Often times it is more a measure of % of planned time expended rather than a measure of project progress.  A better way I believe is to measure completion of some element eg.  “when we have the equipment on site” or “when we have completed the first transaction” or when “first item is shipped to customer”.  These are binary points – they can only have been achieved or not so that there is no ambiguity, in addition they are real achievements which mean something to those involved in the project.

Some projects particularly those associated with changes of business culture and approach are more difficult to measure.  The ultimate aim is surely to make a better business in terms of turnover, profit, customer satisfaction etc but these are not too good at measuring cultural changes in a business.  There are of course no direct measures, but there are some that can be used to give some indication:-

  • People coming in a little earlier and leaving a little later.
  • Meeting room use.
  • E-mail traffic

When working with a high tech business one of the challenges was a silo mentality between the different technology groups, one of the metrics used by the executive was to take snapshot views of how people mixed between departments on lunch tables in the canteen.  It was assumed if people in different departments mix together at lunch then that should improve communication and thus generate a more open and communicative structure.  This proved to be so since as mixing at lunch tables increased, e-mail traffic dropped and the number of “information” meetings dropped.


Measurement is Important!

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