7 Steps to Make Time To Measure (and Improve) Performance

by Stacey Barr |

With these 7 steps, we can make just enough time to measure and improve performance, and ultimately create more time for even better measurement and improvement.

Male employee with clock and computer. Credit: https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/JaruekChairak

Just like all those important but not urgent things we know we should be doing in our work but never seem to, performance measurement is one activity that many find a great struggle to give time to. It’s not because we don’t value it. It’s actually because of a few reasons that any typical human finds difficult to surmount:

  • The tyranny of the urgent: You no doubt worry more about the sting you’ll get tomorrow for not solving the urgent symptoms, more than the agony you’ll get later for not measuring and solving, once and for all, the systemic causes.
  • The perception of complexity: When you’re not experienced with measuring performance, it can seem very daunting to find the right measures, the right data and the right graphs to present them.
  • The size of the task: It’s common that people have dozens of things they want to measure, and they assume they need to measure them all.
  • The fear of finding out the truth: When you measure something, you finally KNOW what’s going on, and that can be particularly uncomfortable when you’ve gotten used to making like an ostrich (head in the sand).

But unlike all those important-but-not-urgent things, measuring performance may very well be the highest leverage activity we can do for our team or organisation or business. Good measurement keeps us focused on the things that matter most, and keeps us allocating the right amount of time and energy and resources to what matters most. But it also helps us fundamentally fix the problems that are wasting our time, and therefore gives us time back.

Until you truly get on top of all the underperforming things that are wasting your time, these seven steps can get you started with just one hour per week:

STEP 1: Start small with 1 hour a week.

Which time of the week is the quietest for you, typically? Which time of the week can you mark out one hour, when you won’t be interrupted, distracted or tempted to do something else? What is one thing that takes up an hour a week that you can just stop doing without great consequence?

Lock this one hour into your schedule, and use it only for measuring and improving what matters.

STEP 2: Make your measurement time sacred.

You have to put up all the protection you can around your measurement time. Close the door, go to a park, turn off your phone and email, put your landline to message bank, tell your colleagues to leave you alone (nicely) and REFUSE to let any other appointment or task shove your measurement time out of that one-hour slot.

Make it even more sacred by setting up your environment so you look forward to it: background music, your favourite beverage, maybe some good quality chocolate to snack on, give it a name (such as Performance Power Hour).

STEP 3: Narrow your focus to just one measure.

It’s crazy to procrastinate on measuring until you have the time to measure all of your 27 goals and objectives. Regardless of how many goals you have, plenty of experts advise us that we can truly only focus on two or three priorities at any one time.

Likely, you’re not measuring any of your goals well enough now, so starting with measuring just one of them must be better than not starting at all.

STEP 4: Choose a hot button.

The one measure to start with really ought to be a measure for the result (or goal) that’s desperately got to improve. It might be wasting a lot of time, or causing your customers a lot of grief. But if you don’t feel the passion (or desperation), you’ll find it hard to keep motivated to measure. Especially when you’re getting started.

Like an airplane, most of the work in measurement is in taking off. Then you’re cruising. You’ll have more fuel for your measurement take-off if you focus on the hot button.

STEP 5: See the end point now.

Another source of fuel for making time to measure is to fall in love with the place it will take you to. It’s a place where you know rather than guess, where you feel in control rather than in chaos, where you create your results rather than hope for them.

By successfully measuring and improving your chosen goal, where will it take you?

STEP 6: Always make the next action simple and doable.

Each time your measurement hour comes around, you want to be very clear what you’re going to do with it. Before it comes around.

Procrastination is the product of unclear next actions. So be very clear what you’ll be doing in your next measurement hour: will it be choosing a goal to measure, or designing a new measure, or listing instructions for sourcing a measure’s data, or creating the spreadsheet and graph for a new measure, or looking for trends or setting a target or considering three ideas for how you’ll improve performance?

STEP 7: Start right now. Literally, right now.

Right now, as you finish reading this paragraph, schedule your measurement hour and decide that very first action you will take when that hour comes around. Set up protection for that measurement hour, design the environment, and put it in your calendar along with a clear statement of the very first action you’ll take toward making measurement happen.

If you want the simplest step by step process I can recommend, that can become your checklist of next actions for your measurement hour, is this lean 12-step process for measuring one thing that matters.

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