The Future of Improvement – Learn More

Measures – The Window to the Process World

The benefit of measures is that they allow us to see, analyse and act appropriately, they help us in our work so that we can manage and improve what we do. Yet deciding on the right process or results measures can be a minefield and we often end up measuring too much, too little or simply the wrong thing and this can lead us to forget the purpose and benefit of measures.

If you can’t measure your work processes, how will you know that performance is unacceptable or whether the changes you make are an improvement? Let’s look at the benefits of measures, the types of measures that will help us improve and how to select the right ones.

 

The benefit of good measures

  • They tell you the current process performance
  • They are linked to customer requirements
  • They help you learn about the process
  • They show you the impact of changes to your process
  • They signal potential problems

We use measures in our daily lives outside of the workplace, for example, time and distance apps help us plan our journeys, we use them without even thinking about it. In our work, we need measures for the same reason – we need to know what is going on with our work so that we can plan accordingly.

"If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it - Peter Brucker"

Measures for improvement and quality

There are two measurement categories that help us understand our work processes and plan; results measures and process measures.

RESULTS MEASURES
The data on the overall process performance which tracks how well you are meeting customer requirements.

These measures are useful to help you prioritise, i.e. which processes need to be improved, and are reasonably easy to identify, but they won’t give you any clues about where in the process the problems arise. For example, a result measure could be time e.g. how long does it take to complete a customer order? Or could be quality e.g. is the order produced to the customer specification? As with these examples, there is often more than 1 result measure that is useful to track and report.

PROCESS MEASURES – A step in the process, or an upstream point, which influences the results measure, because a change in a process measure will cause the results measure to vary.

These can be difficult to identify, but once you’ve got them, they indicate where action is needed to improve the performance, for example, task 1 and task 4 in a process have the most mistakes/take the most time/cause the biggest queues/cost the most in manpower etc. Once you have your process and process steps, you need to decide the right measure for you.

How do you decide what is important and avoid measuring everything or the wrong thing?

These 3 attributes help us understand the priorities for the process and therefore what we need to measure.

Typically, we are interested in 3 process attributes: Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Adaptability.

At first glance, it might feel you are interested in all of 3 but it’s important to keep foremost in your mind your customer – reflect on the priorities for measuring performance in the context of what is valued by them.

The identification and the use of measures gives you essential visibility into the behaviour of your processes but it can be difficult where there is limited data collection or unclear customer requirements. However, there are techniques and methods that can be drawn on to help.

Measures – The Window to the Process World- image - 5

Selecting key measures

Link the Voice of the Customer to the Voice of the Process

In order to meet customer requirements, we must be able to identify and measure the processes which are designed to meet them.

The process for selecting key measures is:

  1. Use interviews and surveys to capture the customer’s own words regarding their requirements
  2. Convert their words to simple expressions limited to a single thought
  3. Categorise the re-worded data and assign major headings
  4. List result measures used to check whether customer requirements are being met
  5. Define the relationships between the customer requirements and the result measures using a matrix
  6. Identify any customer requirements which needs additional result measures
  7. Identify which requirements are most important to your customer and which result measures are most in need of improvement

These 7 steps will yield the best results when you actively engage with your customers to define the correct measures.

Once the vital few results and process measures have been agreed, continuous review of these measures should become a part of what you do; how you learn, maintain quality and improve your processes.

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