Should You Measure Performance When You’re Under-Resourced?

by Stacey Barr

Or perhaps a better question is, what should you measure to fix the problem of being under-resourced?

Under-resourced teams use a good performance measure to negotiate. Credit: gpointstudio

When you’re under-resourced, everyone is rushing and pushing to get everything done in less time than those things probably need. People are stressed, tired, overwhelmed, and a bit more crotchety than usual.

Asking under-resourced teams to start measuring performance can feel to them like you’re asking them to count how long they can hold their breath while they’re trying not to drown.

But, the drowning will continue until they either get more resources, or change their processes to cope better. If neither of these things happen, the
vicious cycle of under-performance will force even less resource availability, which will then force even more under-performance.

To end the vicious cycle, just one good performance measure can help. One good performance measure can make the problem clearer, sharpen focus on fixing that problem, and get the problem fixed faster. The
vicious cycle will continue, if we don’t measure performance.

If a team needs more efficiency, then measure waste.

Most teams will say they’re under-resourced. And only sometimes that’s the truth. Mostly, the truth is that the processes they are constrained by are wasting time and effort.

Here, a good performance measure will highlight where a process design is making the team spend time on waiting, excess, rework or redundancy.

If a team truly needs more resources, then measure the unintended consequences on their outputs.

We can’t infinitely improve the efficiency of a team’s processes. There is a point of diminishing returns, where a tiny further improvement costs far more than the benefit. If a team is near this point, then it’s better that they focus on getting more resources.

Here, a good performance measure will demonstrate the impact of resources on the timeliness and quality of their outputs.

For under-resourced teams to measure, something else has to stop.

It’s dumb to ask an under-resourced team to ‘just make time’ to measure. The time has to come from somewhere, and it shouldn’t be their recovery or recreation time. Employees don’t sell their lives to their employers! Where the time comes from has to be something that is, at least in the short term, less important than letting the
vicious cycle win.

To reallocate time to measuring that one important thing, think about what can the team can stop, suspend, shrink or streamline (thank you Dermot Crowley). Questions like these can help:

  • Can you stop measuring less important things?
  • How much data collection or reporting can be stopped or suspended?
  • Are there any routine or habitual tasks that can be suspended for a while?
  • Is there any task that can be shrunk, by delegating to another team, even if temporarily?
  • Can steps be removed or automated, to streamline a task?

Here are 21 more specific ways we can make time for measuring performance.

For under-resourced teams to measure, measuring has to be easy and fast.

Usually, we can only liberate a small amount of time, quickly, when we’re under-resourced. So, we want to be sure that the performance measure we liberated the time for doesn’t demand more time than was liberated.

To create the best performance measure we can, in the time we now have, we need a lean approach:

  • Make certain we pick a measure that is very useful, but very feasible.
  • Collect the measure’s data from a simple random sample, rather than from everything or everyone.
  • Monitor the measure in a simple spreadsheet, with a basic XmR chart, to quickly detect signals.


When a team is under-resourced, a good performance measure can either negotiate for enough resources, or drive a change in the team’s processes so the resources they have become enough. Ultimately, performance improvement is about getting the biggest bang for our buck, either by making the bang we want bigger, or making the bucks we need fewer.

Under-resourced teams use a good performance measure to either negotiate for enough resources, or change their processes so the resources they have become enough.
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