Why-We-Need-To-Measure-And-Understand-First-And-Then-Decide-What-To-Do-300x300A short post inspired by Ryan Ogilvie’s latest post at Service Management Journey.

I’m often asked, “What should we be measuring?” or “Can you share with me what you consider to be leading practice metrics for x?”  I’m always bemused by such requests–I sort of understand why I’m being asked, but it really does not make sense. It’s like contacting a stranger and asking, “What new car should I buy?”  Only you know what your needs are, how much you can afford, other constraints, prior history and preferences, etc.

Insight #1: If you want to know what to measure, ask your customer what is important to them!

Generally, you are measuring with a purpose–to inform, motivate, or to improve.

  • If inform is the purpose, you need to know what the recipient would most like to be informed about.
  • If the purpose is to motivate, you need some sense of what motivates/demotivates those you are trying to influence.
  • If improve is the purpose, you need to know what the customer would consider to be a worthy improvement.

Insight #2: Don’t get stuck on the same old measures!

The things you measure should change over time as your performance improves, especially if the measurement purpose is to improve.  I recall a client that had poor delivery performance–always late and over budget.  So, they started measuring and publishing delivery performance stats.

2 years later, as part of a quality management initiative, they learned from a business partner that the performance stats were being ignored as they were no longer relevant–the business trusted that systems would be delivered on time and within budget. What they really cared about (now that delivery was predictable) was time to value–i.e., not when the new system was implemented, but when it was actually delivering business value!

In short, you get what you measure. As you get it, the things you want change (sort of a Maslow’s Hierarchy!) so the things you measure should change as the customers needs evolve.


Graphic courtesy of Project Management Tools That Work