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
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!