More on Metrics

On the weekends, my wife and I start the day by watching CBC’s The National evening news show. The February 12th edition had a segment called The Next: Server Farms (5:03) which provides a glimpse into the power consumption requirements of the Internet.

One statement caught my attention. The reporter said around minute 2:15

“…most people who run corporate data centers aren’t responsible for how much energy their IT systems use. They’re judged on reliability and speed.”

As noted in Mentors, Managers and Metrics, these are great metrics, but again they don’t tell the whole story! Different metrics are needed to measure the work going on within the system itself! So a learning moment for me… electrical consumption for the servers and cooling are an important measure of efficiency in this scenario.

In this story it appears that the biggies like Facebook are learning these lessons already, realizing that reduced energy consumption means big savings. It is the small to medium sized companies that have may have more to gain by reducing – or better managing the use of their idle servers. Food for thought for all my IT friends and colleagues.

When we apply Performance Improvement methods to a problem in the workplace, we try our best to be systemic and systematic in our approach. To do that, we need to “see” the problem (or opportunity) from many different angles and levels inside and outside of the organization. This morning I learned another perspective… and I hadn’t even planned on writing anything!

One more thought popped up while in the shower (where I do my best thinking and some average singing) – I wonder if an environmental impact assessment has been done for the barge server farm in the story… to determine the effects of warming the water around it to cool the servers. An outside of the organization perspective.

Okay – NOW I am off to hockey. Happy Saturday everyone!

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Mentors, Managers and Metrics

I recently learned that one of my mentors and good friend, Dr. Roger Chevalier, is going to become the latest Honourary Life Member of the International Society for Performance

roger and brett (2)
Roger and I at the 2012 ISPI Conference in Toronto

Improvement or ISPI. That has had me thinking about mentors, managers and metrics.

I met Roger through the Armed Forces Chapter of ISPI where he took me under his wing and I ended up following him into a leadership role in the Chapter. There is no better way of learning than by doing! Roger was a student of Ken Blanshard, Paul Hersey and Marshall Goldsmith – all leadership and management gurus in their own rights, so I feel very fortunate that we crossed paths and have remained in touch over the years.So that is the mentor in this story. My warmest congratulations to a tireless promoter of our craft!

The vast majority of books that I have read regarding performance improvement are very “text-booky” (my term) and/or aimed at consultants in the field. Roger has long believed that ISPI needs to focus more attention on managers – the folks on the front lines who have to make performance happen. This is a view I share! Roger published a book called A Manager’s Guide to Improving Workplace Performance in 2007 to help that management group understand how to apply performance improvement methods in their workplace. In 200 pages – he lays out a pretty straightforward prescription for helping work teams succeed. Now this is NOT an ad for Roger’s book, but I DO strongly recommend it for anyone in a managerial position. Don’t tell him – but I am hoping that his book sales will skyrocket and he will fly me out to Cali and take me for a ride in his ’64 Corvette convertible!

So where do metrics fit in? I recently did a project for a government organization [who shall remain nameless but you know who you are]. The aim of the project was to examine the training system and make recommendations on how it could be improved.

To give you some context, performance improvement is pretty straight forward. It kinda goes like this:

  • There is a problem (or someone thinks there is a problem)
  • You do some analysis… the organization, the environment it exists within etc to help understand the context
  • You ask the boss “If your problem was fixed, what would the world look like?” This is referred to as “The Desired Performance Statement.” Some folks call it the “To-Be” state
  • Then you ask “What is actually happening right now?” This is the “As-Is” state or the “Current Performance Statement”
  • Comparing the As-Is to the To-Be is called the “Gap Analysis”
  • Then you look for the reasons why you are stuck in the As-Is when you really want to get to To-Be. This is called “Cause Analysis”
  • Once you know the cause(s) [There is normally more than one] you can look at all the potential ways to reduce or remove those causes… the “interventions”
  • Then you select the intervention(s) that will give you the biggest bang for the buck, figure out how to best implement them and do it!
  • All throughout this process you should be evaluating what you have done so far and consider change management requirements

Click HERE to see ISPI’s Performance Improvement Model

Easy peasy right? What if there aren’t any metrics or the wrong things are being measured? Roger’s book has a great quote at the start of Chapter 6 “Defining the Performance Gap” that has always stuck with me (and been repeated in different forms by many people.)

“I can’t improve it if I can’t measure it”
~William Thompson, Lord Kelvin

So – back to that project I was doing. There are metrics, but they are all about the output of the training system ~ graduates. That’s a good metric but it doesn’t tell the whole story! There is nothing in place to measure the work going on within the system itself! For example… how long does it take to define the job, write the performance standards, design and develop the training? No idea. If they did the training this way or that way – what is the cost difference? What are the resource implications? There is some data, but not enough to see how the system is working. Now in fairness, they are developing those metrics and hopefully someday soon they will have that figured out.

Metrics then, are tied to organizational goals and the expectations of your workforce. If you are missing any of these three factors, chances are that your organization is underperforming.

That’s it! Stay tuned for next time… expectations of the workforce is in the batter’s box!

 

 

 

 

 

Humble Beginnings

MugI have been working in the training and performance improvement field for a little over ten years now. There is so much information “out there” that I have never thought that there is something unique for me to add to the discourse so until now, I have remained a consumer of information with the exception of my own little professional network where I was more of a “sharer” than creator.

Yesterday I was interviewed by a graduate student from the University of Louisville who is studying Organizational Development and Learning. We spent about an hour talking about my beginnings in the field, past projects, my favourite thought leaders (many) and models (also many) and things he should consider in his future role as a  “consultant.” His positive reaction to my stories – “I learned more in this hour than all my classes,” an exaggeration I am certain, has prompted me to reconsider my potential as a creator of information.

I always joke that I am Métis but was raised a poor white boy. I enrolled in the Navy at the age of 18 as a Sonar Operator where any sailor will tell you, you learn quickly. After 17 years and a succession of promotions to Chief Petty Officer, I was looking for a change and timing was on my side. The military was paying for sailors, who were so interested, to pursue a Bachelor’s degree – the Navy paid, you committed the time. A great opportunity that with my wife’s encouragement, I took. (Thanks Momma!)

With my Commerce degree from Royal Roads University, I was qualified to take a commission and become a Training Development Officer or “TDO.” During my initial training, I learned about the Instructional and Performance Technology Programme (now Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning or OPWL or “opal”) at Boise State University, which really caught my attention. I had no idea that training was only ONE of many many ways that performance can be improved. What a revelation! The worst of it was that TRAINING, the thing I just learned all about, was (is) usually the most expensive. I also learned that if you write on a white board with permanent marker, all you have to do was scribble over it with a dry erase marker and wipe. It comes right off! That was good to know too.

In 2012 I was invited to join the Boise OPWL Faculty as an adjunct. What a privilege to share what I have learned so far and equally important – to learn from everyone in the program – faculty and students alike.

After ten years of “doing the business” in the military, yet another opportunity appeared and I retired to become a veteran and start a new career in the private sector doing the exact same thing I did as a TDO, but from home! That has been working really well! It is lean and focused and we get a lot done so it is very rewarding.

So in short – that’s how I got here. I am looking forward to sharing my view on the world through the lens of performance improvement.

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