Friday, 19 August 2016

Measuring what matters....

One of the key factors to maintaining improvement and indeed ensuring continuous improvement, rather than one off step change, is by paying attention to what is measured.

sustainchangepic.pngThe old adage: “tell me how you will measure me and I will tell you how I will behave” says it all.

The question which then arises is “what to measure?”  The answer is both simple and complicated.  Simply put:

Understand what the purpose of your operation is, be clear about what matters to your customers and measure how capable you are at delivering this.

The sort of things that tell us how we are performing might include:

  • How long it takes from customer request to completion
  • Percentage of ‘right first time’ provisions
  • Percentage of on time completions

In the professional service areas of work this can include things like time to give a decision, time to process an application.  Some internal measures can be useful for things like the percentage of items received that can be processed (this flags up missing data or information which requires chasing, delay and re-work).

Another consideration is how to employ these key measures so that they are meaningful and tell managers and front-line staff how they are performing.  One very effective approach is the use of time series data and whilst there is a whole technical world of definition and deployment around this, the key principles are making relevant numbers easy to understand by the use of visual charts.  

SPC1 before.png
Process capability current state
For example, a process which was providing help to customers with health problems was meeting all its internal performance targets but when the key measure of how long it took from customer request to help being in place was measured it took an average of nearly 2 months and could take up to 7 months.

Following some relatively simple and straightforward redesign the revised process was measured using the same approach.  The chart below indicates the somewhat improved capability:

SPC2 after.png
Process capability after redesign
This system delivers help on average within just 4 days with an upper limit or worst case prediction of less than 2 weeks.
By putting real data about the capability of the process to deliver in graphical form we see information in a way that is much more meaningful than the outturn measures of cost, revenue and customer satisfaction.  (Realising that customers are complaining and that we need to do something about it is a bit late in the day when we should know in advance how capable our processes are at satisfying customers).  A good measure can do a number of things very powerfully:

  • It relates directly to purpose and is derived from the work
  • It helps understanding and improvement by providing information about the system
  • It demonstrates how capable the process is at doing what it is there to do
  • It is easy to understand and can be used by the people who do the work to control and improve the work
  • Managers can use it to act on the system

So the big question is, what do you measure at the moment and how relevant is this to the purpose of your service, team or process?  The PIU team would love to hear from you and even better help you with measures that let you and your teams really understand how you are doing.

Thanks for reading.

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