The Role of Measurement Through Overwhelming Change

by Stacey Barr

How can we still use better performance measurement without adding it as another initiative to an already overwhelming change program?

Black and white image of water pouring into overflowing bucket. Credit:

Most organisations go through massive changes at some point. And when they do, people, resources and time can suddenly get exhausted and overwhelmed. The natural response is to stop doing the things that aren’t urgent. And for many, better performance measurement isn’t seen as urgent.

Even though most people will agree that it is important, it’s still one of the first things that gets delayed until the change settles down. But it’s an oxymoron; we cannot cope well with change without three mechanisms that only come from better performance measurement.

If leaders and colleagues believe that better measurement is just another change project, and they already have more change than they can bear, then of course better measurement is going to be delayed.

Is better measurement really another change project?

Yes, it is, if we frame it as a complete roll-out of an entirely new approach to performance measurement. Like adopting PuMP organisation-wide. For some organisations, this is important enough for them to include better measurement as one of the priority change initiatives.

But for many others, it’s not useful to see better measurement as its own change initiative. If change is already overwhelming, it’s much more useful and valuable to see better measurement not as a change, but as a tool.

We can reframe better measurement as a tool to help with our existing change program. Assuming, of course, that all the other changes our organisation has committed to, it wants to succeed at.

In that case, measurement as a tool makes three things happen that are vitally important to the success of any change.

Better measurement is a tool to clearly articulate the results of change.

We need to start any change initiative with specific, clear and observable results that it should produce.

But too often we start with vague and broad and intangible goals. If we’re not clear about the results the change should produce, the risk of producing the wrong results, or no results, is too high.

The thinking process to design good measures forces us to be ultra-clear about the results we want from each change. And how we recognise them happening in the real world.

For example, for a digital transformation initiative, a result like ‘improve productivity’ isn’t good enough. What does productivity look like in the organisation? Something like ‘lag time in workflows is eliminated’ is a much more specific example of what the organisation wants from this change.

Clear and specific articulation of results is a vital piece of change success that good measurement practice can bring to your change programs. More info: A Recipe for Writing a Measurable Goal

Better measurement is a tool to strengthen the ownership of the results of change.

We need to have strong ownership and focus for the execution of each change initiative.

But it can be too easy to just assume everyone’s committed to the project plan. And without ownership and focus, time and money will be wasted on things that don’t directly contribute to the goals of the change.

The team that designs the measures for the change will develop stronger ownership for its results. And stronger focus on achieving those results, as they execute the change.

For example, the teams that work in the departments most affected by a digital transformation initiative will have more ownership of the change if they help create the measures of that change. And even more ownership when they align those change results and measures to other strategic outcomes. The dialogue required to do this helps them understand – very tangibly – exactly what is wanted from the change.

Strong ownership of results is a vital piece of change success that good measurement practice can bring to your change programs. More info: How to Map Programs and Projects to Organisational KPIs

Better measurement is a tool to see exactly how well the results of change are being achieved.

We need to start out with objective and direct measures of the results we want from each change.

If we don’t, we miss out on the kind of feedback that helps the implementation team learn quickly what works and what doesn’t, before it’s too late.

The measures we design for each change directly help us monitor if the change is working, both throughout and after the change.

For example, for that digital transformation initiative, we could measure a result like ‘lag time in workflows is eliminated’. And by measuring it before we start the program, we get a baseline to measure the overall impact of the change. And by measuring it throughout the implementation of the digital initiative, we can quickly see if the way we are digitising the workflow is, in fact, starting to save any time. And at the end, we can compare the value of the total time savings to the cost of the digital program, and know for sure the impact it had.

Objective feedback about results is a vital piece of change success that good measurement practice can bring to your change programs. More info: Five Steps for How to Find The Right Measures or KPIs

Can you see how these little additions to change programs can make a potentially huge difference?

Performance measurement doesn’t have to be another change initiative. But it can help the success of all the other change initiatives. [tweet this]

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