The 5 Levers of Change (Part 2) Measurement

I remember a leadership challenge I faced years ago. We had a goal to be ranked #1 by our customers in 25 markets around the country. We had been pursuing this for several years and we knew we were close. When we received our scorecard, we had met our goal in 23 of the 25 markets. The two markets in which we were lagging were my accountability.

What would you have done? We changed our behavior – we invested more resources in the markets in question. We doubled our efforts. The next time we checked, we were #1 in all 25 markets. Nothing impacts performance quite like measurement.
Measurement is a fascinating, multi-faceted topic. While attending Harvard’s Advanced Management Program, we discussed scores of cases; many elaborate and complicated. However, for me, one of the most profound was a case regarding measurement.
You’re probably heard it said countless times: What gets measured gets done. Our case confirmed that belief. But that wasn’t the point. The entire case was designed to warn us about the potential dangers of measurement. Unintended consequences are real and should be accounted for when you design your measures.
How do you use measurement wisely to drive change while avoiding unwanted behaviors? Here are a few ideas…
Measure what matters – Insignificant measures create bureaucracy and noise. Key measures drive focus and action.
Identify multiple measures – If selected carefully, these can work together to create and maintain appropriate tension between competing priorities.
Anticipate unintended consequences – Think about these in advance. Take proactive steps to mitigate the risks as much as possible.
Pinpoint the behaviors that drive outcomes – Be specific. As much as possible, track the behaviors that will lead to the desired change.
Measure frequently. A frequent measure will drive change better than an infrequent one. In my example, we were really flying blind. The measure we were chasing was an annual survey. More frequent measures are more helpful.
Assign accountability – Measurement’s power increases significantly when someone is accountable for the outcome. If no one had been accountable for the two markets I mentioned earlier, there would have been little urgency or ownership to resolve the issue.
If you want to change behavior, increase your chances of success by incorporating meaningful measurement. It’s one of your greatest allies in the battle against the status quo.[GLS_Shield]
Here’s a related post if you’re interested – 8 Reasons to Set Goals.

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Stephen Wallace

9 years ago

I agree with the value of metrics, especially using multiple measures to get a balanced response. For example, I measure the number, value categories, time taken to assess etc. of building and planning approvals via automated reporting. I am however aware that I am not measuring metrics surrounding the 'quality' of these same approvals. The reason for this is the resources needed to randomly audit approvals just can't be spared (or automated). I substantiate this lack of balanced metrics in my mind by the peer review process that we have in place which means that all applications are reviewed before being released. This helps to redress the risk of not measuring quality afterwards, by ensuring quality beforehand.


9 years ago

Thanks, Stephen. I agree, it's always better to build quality in. However, I still like to measure the output side, even if budget constraints restrict us to random checks. I'm a big fan of both process and outcome metrics. My reoccurring mantra to my team is: we get no credit for doing the wrong things well. The outcome metrics let us know if we're doing the right things. Thanks for joining the conversation! Mark

Great Leaders Serve | By Mark Miller | The 5 Levers of Change (Part 5) Performance Management

8 years ago

[…] of this fifth lever with its value. If we use the first four levers of change: Communications, Measurement, Resource Allocation and Reward and Recognition, and fail to embrace the practices of Performance […]


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