There is a familiar quote that says, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” So, how do you know what to measure for a business process? It is different than what you would do in a manufacturing environment where you have specific defect metrics. For a business process, the metrics should relate to customer needs.
In step 2 (creating the foundation) of the 10 steps to business process improvement, you develop basic information about the business process. One key area included in the foundation is the measurements of success. After you identify your customer (or client) and what they need from the process, you should also describe how you will know if you deliver against what they need. At this point, simply write a sentence that outlines what you want to measure. Do not worry in this step how you will measure something – just identify what you want to measure. For example, a sales manager may describe a measurement of success as an “increased number of new customers.”
Since you, or the project team, are simply describing general information about the process in step 2, you will find it fairly easy to define the what. If you have trouble writing the statements, ask questions like, “What does success look like?” “How will you know when you achieve success?” As you create the measurements, think about effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability and attempt to write measurements that fall into each of these three areas.
Step 7 is where you spend some time thinking about how to turn your general measurements of success into specific metrics. By the time you get to this step, you have drawn the process map (step 3), identified how long the process takes from beginning to end (step 4), validated your information (step 5), and applied a series of techniques to improve the process (step 6), so you are well positioned to tackle the metrics challenge.
The sales manager’s measurement of success may initially seem like an efficiency metric, because it seems to focus on volume, but if the sales manager also cares about the quality of new customers it might actually fall under effectiveness and read something like, “30 percent increase in the number of qualified new customers over the next six months.” Notice how much more specific the metric is, from what appeared in step 2. However, if you had spent the time in step 2 to get at this level of detail, you would have found yourself buried in too much unnecessary information too early in the process.
In step 7 you also have to determine how you will deliver the metric. You may have to create a new tracking method, establish baseline information, or develop a new report. In step 8 (testing), make certain that any new reports meet the needs of the interested parties by showcasing a boilerplate version.
In step 10 (continuous improvement) decide how often you plan to review the measurement data. Will you do this weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually?
Finally, remember that you cannot measure everything! Albert Einstein says, “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” So, use your customer needs as the source for what you measure. Include the most important effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability metrics to start.
Copyright 2010 Susan Page