Process Measurement and Constant, Real Time Feedback are Vital to Improvement

“Ignorance is the starting point for the bliss that leads to oblivion.”

Here is a little story for you:

Cindy, a coffee shop manager watched a customer get up and make his way to the pay phone beside the counter. “Hi. I am calling about the job listing for a regional manager in the northeast a few months ago,” Cindy overheard her customer saying on the phone. “Oh, I see, the position’s been filled. Are you happy with the new manager,” the man asked. “You are. OK, thanks.”

As the customer went past the counter, Cindy said sympathetically, “I couldn’t help but over hear your call. Sorry that job wasn’t available.” Somewhat puzzled, the customer replied in a different voice than he’d used on the phone, “What? Oh, that. Oh, I have the job now. I was just calling to see how I was doing.”

High performers actively seek feedback. They know that’s the only way to change their course and improve their performance. Good feedback and measurement identifies the “here” that goes with vision’s “there”. Getting from here to there depends on a solid understanding of where “here” is. Understanding the “as-is”.

But in most organizations — if it’s given at all — feedback is a distorted jumble of mixed messages and past results. Sometimes these results are reviewed far too late. It’s almost impossible to draw connections between today’s results and yesterday’s behavior or today’s behavior and tomorrow’s results. It’s as if we’re archers being judged on our ability to hit the target with a few arrows each day. But the target is hidden in the mist. And the results of our daily shots are consolidated and given to us at the end of each month. Then we are rewarded or punished for the “accuracy” of our aim and exhorted to improve.

Feedback is central to learning. Faulty feedback is one of the biggest contributors to organization, team, and personal learning disabilities. If I don’t know how I am doing, I can’t improve.

The right measurements establish vital feedback loops that show whether the approaches being used are moving the organization toward its goals. They help separate the useful from the useless work.

Effective measures show whether all the training, team activities, experimentation, and process management are producing results. They help managers see through the dust storms raised by so many furious flurries of enthusiastic “busywork” that can create the illusion of progress.

The quality movement and approaches like The Balanced Scorecard have played key roles in the development and refinement of measurements to provide leading indicators of potential problems before they become apparent to everyone. These balance the lagging indicators or backward-focused measures (usually financial) that managers have relied so heavily upon. But the quality and quantity of non-financial performance measures being used is still very low.

We find that there are two main reasons for the low levels of non-financial measures. First, many managers haven’t done their homework. They don’t realize just how disciplined this field has become. They don’t know that a vast array of very effective tools measuring customer/partner, process, organization improvement performance and the like are now readily available. Second, managers aren’t comfortable with feedback. They haven’t learned how to get it and how give it effectively. So measurements turn into “gotchas” to be avoided.

Both of these reasons for low levels of non-financial measures can be avoided with the right process intelligence platform. Anything and everything that is done in the business is a process and as they are performed, electronic logs create vast amounts of data waiting to be transformed into savings and revenue. Once this data is loaded into a process intelligence platform it allows for the management team to see the processes in the company in an “as is” form with a greater depth than ever previously capable. This insight provides the clarity to make decisions for continuous improvement, create better standardization, and have the feedback that they have lacked for so long.

When analyzing KPIs of a process it is important to expand beyond financials. Process intelligence can provide insights into the process duration, number of event occurrences, repeated steps, and even can help to solve questions like where bottlenecks and violations of rules or protocols occur. KPIs for cost are still included but now you can understand the who, why, and what caused the problem. Process intelligence gives the capability to query results and find what specific processes are costing the company more. Investigative analysis can provide the context to the costs allowing for opportunities of continuous improvement.

The push of competition is making it more important than ever that a business is able to have full visibility into how it is doing. Are you equipped with the measurement and feedback needed for your business? Quit remaining complacent with your business measurements. Allow your company to have the context to its measurement and feedback that it needs with a process intelligence platform. Consider investing in a product like ABBYY Timeline to elevate improvement in your business.

October 4, 2018