What’s the color of the sky in your project world?

-Defining and Driving a realistic metrics strategy – The Risks and Benefits of metrics

No matter your role in the project organization and whether you are just starting to define your framework and strategy or have a well developed one in place, ensuring that you understand the risks and benefit continuously is paramount to how successful your results will be.

In various versions we have heard the old adage “What gets measured gets done” It has been attributed to thought leaders the like of Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, Edwards Deming, Lord Kelvin and others. Peter Drucker expanded on the above and once said, “What gets measured, gets managed[1]”  If the above is true, then it is paramount that before we can measure something we must understand what it is we are attempting to “do” or “manage”. Each metric you establish should influence and change a behavior in your organization that you see as key to modify.

Source: http://casestudy.co.in

Before we can assess the benefits and risks of metrics we must first understand how to define what we are measuring. Following are five (5) concepts to consider as you define your metrics:

You metrics must be –

1)      Objective – Ensure that the metric is not dependent on a human influence, create the metric so that it is driven by objective monitoring and measurement. We have all seen examples of this in our environment, and it is a crucial that we continuously monitor to ensure that there is little opportunity for influence or gaming.

2)      Predictive/Repeatable – both the metric itself and the behavior you are modifying.  Ensure that the definition of the metric allows you to be specific enough to zero in on the issues and ensure that it is something that has a trend to it.  The associated behaviors by people in your organization are linked to these trends.  As you monitor and control the measurement you also modify the behavior, but be patient, it doesn’t happen overnight.

3)      Automated – striving for automation of metrics will help you accomplish two critical elements.  The first is minimizing the influence of stakeholders in the results of your measurements, the second is the time sink the collection of data and analysis to derive information can take. The more automation you can leverage the more time you can spend refining the strategy and alignment to the company’s strategy.

4)      Actionable – Enact the ‘KISS” (Keep it Short and Simple) principle when choosing metrics, don’t boil the ocean.  As we start to inventory our current metrics we tend to latch on to every metric we can get our hands on. But, if you focus on those metrics that drive actionable change and behavior modification aligned with the company’s strategy you are much more likely to succeed.

5)      Leading vs. Lagging – While learning from past performance can be helpful, focusing on predicting future trends is much more powerful.  Your metrics should have a balance of both, but your focus should be on asking questions about what you want to “do” or “manage” and how it will look in the future.  Picking leading indicators metrics that help you paint that picture will keep you well informed and positioned for success.

Once your metrics are define or refined, I am sure you have thought of several risks and benefits that come with a metrics framework strategy. Here are some of the most impactful:

Risk – The human fudge factor – keeping the metrics free of human interest and influence is important to ensure the metric is believable and the process is transparent. To develop the metric and ensure adoption to drive behavior change however, you need the metric owner to help design the metric to ensure it makes sense.

Risk – Driving a different behavior than you planned. The most well designed metric can have a much different effect than you anticipated, especially when mixed into the broader enterprise environment.

Risk – Academic versus practical.  When designing your metrics, involve the metric owner to ensure that the metric is practical to implement.  There are some excellent sources out there to help identify industry standard metrics, but take the time to mold them to fit your particular situation.

Benefit – Benchmarking, if you choose metrics that your competitors and partners are using, you can easily benchmark against them or your industry to keep you on track.

Benefit – Visibility and transparency through your metrics, if well developed – communicated and adopted, should remove the emotional barriers to having constructive conversations about the direction your project, program, or portfolio is heading and how to course-correct.

Benefit – Ensure that your projects and programs are aligned to your company’s strategy and enabling it to be executed or alert you to any inconsistencies in the indented execution.

The above are examples of benefits, once you implement your framework strategy I encourage you to post your own findings and let the community benefit from your learnings.

In my next posting I will dig deeper into how your metrics framework strategy can help enable true strategy execution.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Drucker

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