leanblog.org: Measuring for Improvement

Mark Grabon’s latest post hits the key difference between metrics that help improvement, vs. management-by-measurement that destroys trust and possibly drives unethical behavior. He quotes a U.K. hospital administrator as saying:

“We’re trying to shift from collecting data for judgment to data for improvement.”

I agree with Mark’s assessment: “Brilliant.”

Metrics are a “Check” in Plan-Do-Check-Act.

The purpose is not to determine if people are “doing their jobs” but to assess if the plan is working as predicted.

“As predicted” means that not only is there an objective, but there are discrete actions which everyone agrees will cause the objective to be reached.

Note the words “everyone agrees.”

For that to happen, not only are objectives handed down, but the plan to reach them is discussed. The boss is keenly interested in exactly how his people plan to accomplish their objectives, and he has bought in after he is satisfied they have done thorough work. Think about that for a second. The boss now has his own “skin in the game” on not only the objective, but the way to get there.

There isn’t any space, at this point, for judging people based solely on hitting the numbers, because the boss has already agreed that the plan should work. The question now comes down to how well the team did putting together a plan and gaining consensus, and how well they executed. If the numbers aren’t hit, everybody has to reflect on why the plan didn’t work, what they didn’t foresee, and what they need to do better next time.

Management-by-measurement, on the other hand, is an abdication of leadership. It becomes an adversiaral rather than collaborative exercise and becomes a contest of politics and blame-shifting. This is why, I think, Deming finds the merit system and individual performance bonuses so destructive.

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