To be successful, any improvement programme needs not only a vision, but also progress and goal indicators. Therefore, establishing the right measures and metrics is critical in providing the structure and framework that will hold the whole of the programme together.
All programmes need to know: is performance improving as expected? Are the improvement plans being implemented as expected? And are the improvements due to the action being taken?
The tools and techniques that can be used to measure performance include the Balanced Scorecard, which requires the business to agree a set of indicators that give a balanced internal and external view of the business. The key is to make early adjustments when things are not going right. Dashboards, which deploy a small set of measures throughout the organisation, can also be used and provide links between the vision and the day-to-day activities.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are another option. Many organisations report numerous sets of measures, but at best only a few are really used to drive business performance. Many tend to only highlight what has gone wrong well after it has happened. For improvement programmes, what is needed is a set of measures, or KPIs, that can provide leading information, are linked to the actual processes within the organisation, and can be owned with people taking clear accountability. By linking these, via the Dashboards, it is possible to promote active participation in the improvement programme.
However, it is just as important to measure progress, which can be done using models such as ISO9000 and EFQM Business Excellence Model.
Finally, throughout any improvement programme, a whole host of tools will, and should be, deployed, some of which are likely to be new to an organisation.
Irrespective of this, all those involved will need to be given the correct level of training to use them. Unfortunately, experience has shown that while relatively simple tools can help drive a programme forward, when wrongly applied they can just as easily severely limit progress.
Kevin Bennett is a lecturer with Smallpeice Enterprises
Tel: 01926 336 423