3 Ways to Successfully Adopt a New KPI Approach

by Stacey Barr |

Brook Rolter, our licensed PuMP Contractor based in the US, shares his experience with three ways to successfully adopt a new KPI approach into any organization.

A hand caressing a new puppy to adopt. Credit: https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/Bogdan%20Kurylo

When 20 or 25 people from one organization attend a private PuMP workshop, the conversations and questions are different than in our public PuMP workshops. In those private workshops, people share more about the unique circumstances and challenges of their organization. One of those challenges is how to successfully implement PuMP in their organization. While the specifics differ across organizations, the experiences and take-aways have proven widely applicable.

A participant in a recent private workshop, Bella (not her real name), explained it like this:

 

“This is all great, I can see how PuMP can help, and am excited to use the approach, but how can I implement this when:

  • I don’t have authority or permission to change our goals / strategy / priorities that are filled with vague language.
  • Our senior managers and leaders don’t understand the time and effort required to really develop effective and meaningful measures. Nor do they understand how they contribute to the existing challenge — they just want measures and want them yesterday.
  • My colleagues and our immediate managers are already overloaded. They see this as extra work, and no one has the bandwidth to take on more for something they see as unproven in our organization.
  • And frankly, as enthusiastic as I am about this, I am not yet fluent enough with the PuMP approach and concepts to discuss them in terms relevant to our organization rather than is terms of steps and tools.

So… What should we do? How can I put this to use?”

 

If Bella’s challenges sound like your own, then it’s useful to realize three things:

  1. First, recognize that the situation is not unique. Actually, it’s rather normal to struggle to get an organisation to adopt a new approach to KPIs.
  2. Second, recognize that a true measurement approach, like PuMP, includes multiple concepts and tools that can be adopted individually with significant success, before you worry about adopting it in its entirety.
  3. Third, recognize that others have gone before you and found ways to increase the successful adoption of PuMP and other KPI approaches. And that gives you a head start.

On the third point, what follows are three approaches from private PuMP workshop participants, who have been successful in getting a KPI approach adopted. These particular examples use PuMP, but if you have another true performance measurement methodology, they should apply equally as well.

Approach 1: Team Pilot

If you have a team assigned to develop performance measures for existing strategy, goals, objectives, or priorities then the eight-week team implementation approach we recommend in PuMP is perfect. We call it the PuMP Pilot.

The team can work through each of the steps of PuMP on a goal or objective relevant to the organization. Team members will learn, experiment, practice together. Best of all, after the eight weeks they will have meaningful performance measures for the organization and built up some of their skills to help others and do it again.

Approach 2: Concept and Technique Adoption

The second approach recognizes that PuMP embraces multiple concepts, each of which can be adopted individually and targeted toward very specific improvements, such as:

  • Clarifying the desired results of the strategic, goals, objectives, and priorities
  • Decomposing / teasing apart, breaking down longer term results and illustrating a cause-and-effect chain within the organization for how to coordinate resources and capabilities to achieve the organization’s results
  • Using evidence as the basis for measuring results
  • Illustrating performance over time and acknowledging variation – reducing unnecessary use of resources tracking down causes and implementing changes from normal variation
  • Using performance gaps from desired results as the lens, through which to focus on investing improvement efforts and resources

One component of a public sector organization produces and updates products on set cycles throughout the year. The management team focused on production, and some were so consumed with meeting production that they had difficulty carving out time for anything else. Others struggled to see value in time spent clarifying their goals and objectives — after all, production is about meeting delivery and ensuring quality.

Some managers knew they needed a better way to manage and look at performance, so they had a few people attend a private PuMP workshop, sponsored by the organization. The post-workshop experiences shared by attendees were consistent: they were excited about how the PuMP concepts and tools could help, but they couldn’t get approval for a team pilot. They found little interest or support to clarify existing goals and objectives. The managers did not see how PuMP provided a pathway to help with their challenges, or manage more effectively, or with less energy.

But one person, who worked deep within the component organization, started providing XmR charts in review meetings and explained how they illustrated real performance. Within a few weeks, management caught on, and began asking if the measures they requested were the “right” ones. They asked what the right measures should be. That quickly led to discussions about goals, priorities, desired results, and evidence. And that’s what PuMP’s step 2 specifically helps with.

Approach 3: Organization Capability Development

The third approach recognizes that performance measurement and strategy are important capabilities that can and should be developed at many levels within an organization. They are not just for executive ranks or strategy and performance offices.

Bianca (not her real name) was a mid-level manager from the strategy office of a public sector organization. The broader organization had struggled with strategy and organizational performance for a long time. Exploring ways to move the organization forward with strategy and performance, Bianca sponsored a handful of staff to attend PuMP workshops organized by a peer office. After hearing their reviews of the PuMP workshop, Bianca then decided to attend.

During the workshop, while practicing the Measure Gallery (step 4 of PuMP), Bianca realized that much of the struggles experienced with performance measures and strategy in the broader organization were caused by lacking a common foundation of concepts, language, and practices for strategy and performance. Everyone seemed to have a different concept, model, understanding. She realized this:

“How can we have effective discussions around strategy and performance if we neither have nor develop common language, concepts, and practices within the organization?”

After the workshop, Bianca was excited and set about applying PuMP concepts and tools within her office. But she quickly saw the need for a common foundation among office staff. So, Bianca also had each person in the office attend a PuMP workshop, then an existing strategy workshop to create the foundation for an integrated capability in performance strategy; one built upon common concepts, language and tools. As more people attended the workshops, Bianca reinforced and supported people applying those tools, templates, practices and learning.

Over time, the office capabilities grew stronger and more consistent. The expertise became apparent to other managers and executives, and Bianca’s office received more and more requests for assistance. Bit by bit, other parts of the organization had successful experiences with a consistent set of concepts, language, and practices that worked. They adopted them, too.

***

Adopting new concepts, tools, and practices is a challenge for any organization. That’s because such adoption is not a bolt-on, but a build-in. The three approaches described above have been successful in many organizations. A critical factor for success, regardless of approach, is to focus where there’s both opportunity and interest. Once a PuMP concept or tool has been used successfully – on something that matters – broader discussions around meaningful measures and results get raised naturally. And then performance measurement maturity can grow organically.

What approach has been successful for you to adopt a new KPI approach, like PuMP?

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  1. Rob Leeming says:

    Hi Stacey, I can certainly resonate with “Bella’s” situation. After a large unsuccessful effort to implement PuMP in my organisation (a Government one !). I have been trying to get traction using Approach #2 to locally demonstrate the benefits of Process Behavior Charts (aka XmR) to identify and substantiate process improvement. Hopefully listening to the “voice of the process” will enable evidence based management (PuMP) to take hold and grow.

    • Stacey Barr says:

      It’s a good strategy. Like we have already discussed in today’s PuMP Community Quarterly Webcast, I think you’re on the right track. While I believe that full PuMP is the only way to profoundly good performance measures, I also accept that in the real world we need to work with the energy and readiness we can find in our colleagues. And you’re doing exactly that. It’s less about PuMP and far more about solving problems that matter, and boosting our influence over creating the results we want. PuMP is a pathway to make that easier, it’s not the destination!

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