The concepts and construction of metrics has played a role throughout the process of change management as it relates to an organization. At this point in the process, the metrics begin to assume a larger part as they validate or refute the actions taken in response to the need for change. In short, the metrics prove the vision and solution right or wrong at this point. However, there can be a different approach.
The most compelling reason for the need for a change in approach is that process metrics are based on lagging or outcome indicators. These are after-the-fact results, unchangeable once the period of measurement has been completed. Many decisions are now pushed down to the floor level, and for those individuals and this level of focus we find the old high level outcome measures inadequate. We desire measures that are meaningful to the entire organizational hierarchy. We can then use those measures, and others to monitor and promote particular behaviors by our employees. Using outcome indicators is like looking out the back window of a car to see where you’ve gone.
Today’s environment requires measurements that can predict, determine, and influence desired outcomes. We need to be able to affect the final outcomes for whatever period we are measuring by developing and monitoring interim indicators.
Managing the trends of the leading indicators is our view of successfully managing your investment in high performance business processes. The premise is to measure both leading and lagging indicators; but it must be done in some context and with some overall process that integrates tactical with your strategic direction.
Using a well thought out mix of leading (process) and lagging (results) indicators produce the best results. We review the leading indicators on a weekly basis. We now should have the ability and time to correct deviations from expectations. By the time we review lagging indicators at the end of the month we should be in good shape. However, these indicators don’t relate to the behaviors that you want to produce so they don’t provide a vehicle for change management. We must conceptualize a set of metrics that includes people’s behavior.
ARE PERFORMANCE INDICATORS THE ANSWER – WHY NOT?
If indicators were taken and used in the spirit for which they were created that would be one thing. However, human beings have a natural aversion to being measured and held accountable for performance. No matter how well intentioned the indicators that we’ve set up, the people on the floor level will find a way to circumvent them. In fact, we have found organizations that we’ve worked with to be quite ingenious when it comes to finding ways to “beat the system.” So, while these indicators track the apparent success of the process, they don’t tell the whole story. The key to achieving results and sustaining the process is to combine process indicators with behavioral indicators.
We have found it extremely beneficial to focus on behaviors as part of any initiative no matter the business or industry. In the past, we used to talk about “Best Practices”. We now talk specifically about “Best Behaviors.” With any initiative, we often spend a great deal of time identifying those indicators that will give us reassurance that the process is working. If we’re really on the ball we’ll not only develop results indicators, but also process indicators. Tied into other systems these provide quantitative evidence of success or lack thereof. What happens when the pressure is reduced i.e., consultants or external help goes away? Often organizations revert to the old and comfortable ways, or we find that the quantitative evidence has been creatively dealt with and results aren’t what we think or wish. We call this phenomenon “Organizational Hysteresis” or the tendency of an organization to revert back to its former shape. You know, business as usual.
It is not enough to just manage the numbers. What is of the most value is that along with developing the process is to develop a list of behaviors we want the organization to exhibit. Then we develop behavioral metrics that are aligned with the desired behaviors. After process installation, or hard wiring, we then program the organization by coaching and facilitating to those desired behaviors and then provide qualitative measures.
DON’T PANIC – QUANTITATIVE MEASURES ARE STILL USEFUL
Various attempts at measuring organizational performance at different points of process are well known. There are outcome measures, cost/benefit analysis, and continuous performance parameters, but to measure change in behavior and individual change in performance, and beliefs qualitative measures have extensive value. Much of traditional measurement has been based on quantitative measures, and there is history of value for those kinds of measures among technical managers and engineers. There is a desire for the “hard numbers” and “show me the numbers” information. Unfortunately, there aren’t hard numbers or statistical processes that are effective in tracking behavioral change.
There is a dilemma in using “self-report” data to evaluate the effectiveness of outcomes in behavioral change. Therefore, it is wise to use qualitative measures to assess to what degree people are doing the required behavior. This means answering or observing, none of the time, some of the time, most of the time, and all of the time reports or assessments. This must also be correlated with actual change in outcome. Therefore, the qualitative measures must be interpolated with the hard number outcome measures (bottom line numbers, profitability, cost/benefit). Therefore, there must be intelligent analysis and integration of both kinds of measures.
HOW DO YOU ESTABLISH BEST BEHAVIORS?
The human psyche is broken down into three main elements for the sake of Change Management. Changing beliefs, knowledge and vision is the intellectual or cognitive component. Changing what is done, how it is done, and what is gained is the behavior component. How we respond to the success, failure or stress of the endeavor is the emotional aspect and not one to be ignored. All three elements are interdependent.
Assessment of current behaviors and beliefs is important to establish when doing baseline “as is” metrics and indicators. An example of this is the typical belief that “we are heroes if we drop everything or do whatever we can to correct a problem.” In a reactive business environment, this is the norm. There is a rush or sense of pride and accomplishment. “See how quickly we responded and got the show back on line.” Or, “We get the job done, no matter what.” These beliefs are often reinforced by an informal reward system, promotions, pats on the back, etcetera.
In most business process improvements, our desire is to change the reactive belief to one that stresses zero defects and a planned, measured, predictable approach to our work. This leads to more profitability for the company, paying off for the individual by maintaining employment, providing a different level of satisfaction, and removing the chaos from the day. The new belief is one that states, responding to emergencies means that the process has failed, and that if not identified, addressed and corrected could lead to the demise of the company.
Interviewing all levels of the workforce to find their beliefs and how they go about their jobs is important for establishing baselines. This is used to identify how the organization has moved once the process improvement begins. It also starts the sense of buy-in, as you are asking for employees for their information. But you must honor that contribution. This information can also be used to establish scorecard “red light” behaviors.
It is extremely important that prior to commencing any installation or implementation activities that the new desired behaviors are identified. Can you think of some? Well, here are a few I can think of:
- People attend planning meetings and are prepared to make decisions
- A worker knows, with certainty, what he or she will be working on or expected to accomplish during the next week or day
- A worker is confident that he or she will be allowed to perform that identified activity
- Leaders practice open and honest communications
- Key Performance Indicators are understood and the indication of a negative trend is an opportunity to learn
- Reactivity is not rewarded
- Feedback is honored and encouraged
And the list goes on.
Determining the desired proactive behaviors and beliefs becomes the basis for the new process. Behavioral observations and self-reports of sometimes doing things the “new way” but occasionally reverting to the old behaviors signal the need for intervention (coaching). It is important to praise this transition phase and refrain from focusing on “not good or fast enough” to encourage continuation to desired and expected behaviors and beliefs. Reward and reinforcement create the desired behavioral change. Punishment only causes resentment and resistive behavior.
WHY BEHAVIOR FOCUS IS THE KEY
Modified and new behaviors are the key to any change initiative. Towards the end of a previous engagement we were asked by Manager for a way to measure the success of the engagement. The immediate and obvious answer was, “We have met all of the targets.” We were then challenged to assure this Manager that once left alone the process would continue and not revert to the past. This is what we refer to as sustainability. Recall “Organizational Hysteresis?” This caused us to pause for a moment and think about what would be a prime indicator of continued progress. Well, we had the metrics and the behavioral tool, but they were measured differently. Metrics were measured quantitatively while the behaviors were measured qualitatively. In the end, we came up with the idea that a combination of both would provide an ideal vehicle to certify the organization “competent” or “sustaining” for the process that was being modified. We would measure them on two axes: performance and behavior. Using a normalized scoring methodology, we were then able to rate the organization on a 0 to 6 scale.
One cannot achieve sustainability without strong evidence of the presence of both process and behavioral performance. Simply set forth, we measure the organization against normalized assessment points for both performance and behavior. We then grade or graph against two axes, and if the organization passes a set point that was initially agreed upon by the organization we can declare the organization at either a competent, sustainable, or high performing category. It isn’t quite important at this point that we worry about the three grades. What is important is that the questions are dependent upon the process chosen and are used to evaluate performance (quantitative) and behaviors (qualitative). They can be used at the front end for baseline determination and at the back end for a measure of organization movement.
Thus, from outward appearances, one might assume that the process is firmly in place and sustaining. This is especially true with early performance gains. However, without these requisite behaviors, starting at the very highest levels of the organization firmly in place, one can expect a return to the status quo once the training wheels have been removed. What we have discovered since is even more powerful.
MEASURE FROM THE BEGINNING
Initially it was conceived that measuring the desired set of beliefs and behaviors required at the end of an engagement made the most sense. However, once a standard set of behaviors was established along with the associated measurement system, we started evaluating the behaviors at the beginning of an engagement. Although it should have been intuitively obvious to the most casual observer, a remarkable thing happened. The organization knew what to expect from the very beginning. Adjustments would be made to agree with the associated process as it migrated during implementation phases. However, interestingly enough, by measuring from the very beginning everyone could see the changes in behaviors. It is amazing, as there is now a visualization of the change from the “as is” to the desired. These are the beliefs and behaviors that will ensure that the process is firmly in place and will be sustainable. You can actually see it!
This approach works for any environment: manufacturing, services, heavy industry and all aspects of the business. Not only are the workers on the shop floor evaluated, but we also look at all levels of the organization. A sample of areas evaluated for behaviors and beliefs are as follows:
- Environment for Change
- Moving from the Old Beliefs to the New Beliefs
- Best Behaviors by Function
- Desired Process Behaviors
- Information Management/Systems
As you can see, no one is immune from scrutiny. No required process or system is above suspicion. The list and required behaviors can be adjusted and modified to support the Organizational Culture and the process involved. After all, seeing is believing!
In the final article in this series, we will describe Step 5, “Achieving Sustainability”.