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Stacey Barr Stacey Barr

Stacey Barr is a specialist in organizational performance measurement and creator of PuMP, the refreshingly practical, step-by-step performance measurement methodology designed to overcome people’s biggest struggles with KPIs and measures.

6 Reasons to Stop Measuring It

By: Stacey Barr

Jul 22, 2014 512 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

If you’re problem isn’t having too few performance measures, then most certainly it’s having too many. We don’t like to let go of our performance measures because we might just need them someday, and it took a lot of effort to get them in the first place. These aren’t good reasons for keeping them, and doing so will cause us more harm than good.

We do best when we have the fewest possible performance measures that help us make the progress we want toward our most valued goals. Too many measures make us confused and sluggish, overwhelmed and mediocre. Less is more.

You won’t get the fewest greatest performance measures until you declutter and create space to more clearly see what you truly need. You must be brave and ditch those desultory measures.

Use the following six reasons as something of a checklist to test if you should kill off a performance measure. I’d suggest that if even just one of these reasons applies, it’s really worth getting rid of that measure.

Reason #1: It’s not really a true performance measure.

Many ditch-worthy measures are not really measures at all. Examples of non-measures include milestones, activities and vague phrases:

  • ‘Research, discussion, and position papers supported and/or written’
  • ‘85% staff have been briefed on the marketing plan’
  • ‘Increased market acceptance’

Get rid of any ‘measure’ that does not meet the definition of what a true performance measure is.

Reason #2: It doesn’t strongly link to anything strategic or mission-critical.

We measure to improve. While absolutely everything could potentially be improved, it’s ludicrous to do it. So we set priorities: goals for the things that are the most worthwhile to improve.

Performance measures should align with those things that are the most worthwhile to improve. If you’re measuring it just because it’s easy, because it’s always been measured, because it might be important one day, or because it’s ‘interesting’, then you can safely stop measuring it.

Reason #3: It’s making people behave the wrong way.

If people believe that performance measures are noticed, they will choose the easiest way to make sure that measure reflects positively back on them. The easiest way to do this might be:

  • report only the good data (leave out deliveries that are more than 1 hour late from the on-time delivery measure)
  • fabricate data that makes the measure look good (getting account managers to fill in the customer survey on behalf of customers, rather than giving the survey to the customers themselves)
  • create their own definition of the measure, based on what they know will look good (reporting on the time it takes to get the first luggage item from the plane to the baggage carousel, rather than the median time for all luggage)
  • sacrifice performance in another area to focus more on the one in the spotlight (leave out safety checks on freight vehicles in order to shorten delivery times)

If you can’t mitigate the unwanted behaviors, you’re safer to kill off the measure and work with the team to establish better reasons to measureHelp them choose goals and measures they care about and can influence through process improvements.

Reason #4: It can’t give you unbiased and accurate enough evidence.

Some measures might be vitally important, but the data just might not be available to make the measure also trustworthy.

One manager wanted to measure the cost of the end-to-end supply chain in his organisation. The ideal data for this required that costs could be allocated to specific tasks through the supply chain. But their accounting system simply wasn’t set up to do this.

So while Total Supply Chain Costs might be a very valuable measure, finding a proxy for it (the manager considered using Labor Costs) would be too misleading. He’d be better off ditching the Labor Costs measure and putting the effort into properly defining the Total Supply Chain Costs measure and setting up activity-based accounting to produce the data they need.

Reason #5: It’s measuring a result beyond your circle of influence.

Particularly for government and not-for-profit organisations, it’s easy to end up with measures you can’t do much to affect. That’s because the outcomes of these organisations tend to be about changing other people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.

Yes, it’s important for a health organisation to know if more people are getting healthier. But this outcome is affected by so many other organisations and factors that it’s near impossible to isolate the effect of the one health organisation.

It’s more useful (and moralizing) for the health organisation to measure something more directly resulting from their policies, messages and programs. For example, they could measure the reach of their messages, the reactions people have to those messages, and the changes in health of those people participating in their programs. These things are within their circle of influence.

Reason #6: There’s no ownership of it by the people who should use it.

You might think it’s the Best Performance Measure In The World, but if the people who should use it say ‘meh’, then think again.

I facilitated a group of people in a government transport authority to come up with some performance measures for the impact of projects on the condition of roads. Some members of the team were engineers, naturally. And one of them came up with a doozy of a performance measure that no-one else understood or wanted to use.

No ownership means the measure won’t be used. And having and using a good measure is better than having and ignoring a great one. Save the great measure in your measures dictionary so you don’t forget it, and so it’s at the ready when it’s time has come. But don’t waste effort implementing it.

Stacey Barr is a specialist in organisational performance measurement and creator of PuMP, the refreshingly practical, step-by-step performance measurement methodology designed to overcome people’s biggest struggles with KPIs and measures. Learn about the bad habits that cause these struggles, and how to stop them, by taking Stacey’s free online course “The 10 Secrets to KPI Success” at www.staceybarr.com/the10secretstokpisuccess.
Howard Rohm Howard Rohm

Howard Rohm is President and CEO of the Balanced Scorecard Institute and Founder of the Strategy Management Group, Inc., the Institute's parent company. He is a performance management trainer, consultant, and technologist with over 40 years' experience.

Gaming the System at the VA

By: Howard Rohm

Jul 16, 2014 8752 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

Imagine you take your car to the car dealer to get serviced. Before you give your car to the service manager you see the following performance statistics posted on the wall:

  • Average time to wait for an appointment after requesting one—27 days
  • Number of people who requested an appointment but didn’t get one—46,000
Not too reassuring is it. Would you leave your car or look somewhere else?

Some Veteran Administration facilities have a performance history like this. According to a recent review of the VA requested by President Obama, the agency is in deep trouble—average wait time for an appointment is 27 days and 46,000 veterans never got an appointment after requesting one. Some veterans died while waiting for appointments, although it’s not clear if the delays in medical attention contributed to the deaths.

At some VA facilities performance measurement data were misreported to make executives’ performance appear better than it was. Fraudulent performance reporting was used to help justify executive performance bonuses. (A department audit reported that three out of four facilities had a least one instance of false wait-time data and in some facilities two sets of books were being maintained.)

This type of behavior is called “gaming the system”. It’s a consequence of a culture overly focused on the wrong things (wait times) and a measurement system that emphasizes process performance over outcome performance. We shouldn’t be too surprised by the VA experience. When the wrong things are measured and incentivized, the wrong behaviors almost always result.

Focusing on the wrong measures and missing or minimizing the right measures created a climate of misreporting and deceit at some VA facilities, leading some executives to get credit for and bonuses based on reported good performance while all along the opposite seems to be true. Almost $300 million was paid out by the VA in 2013 for performance bonuses to employees, including nearly 300 senior leaders. (Maybe some of these executives should give their bonuses back to the VA for poor performance!) We’ll leave for another discussion the bigger question—what is systemically wrong at VA that encourages a behavior to keep two sets of books on performance?

Some critical questions come to mind. Where does customer satisfaction (veterans and their families are the customers) fit into the performance reporting and incentive equation? Shouldn’t satisfaction with medical service be heavily weighted in determining executive bonuses? If performance and reward are based mostly on process measures—like wait time—and wait time is being misreported, shouldn’t one assume that outcomes like effective medical care would suffer and that cheating to gain bonuses could occur?

How can an organization choose the “right” measures?  Start with the end in mind (desired results/accomplishments) and work backwards through the processes that lead to the desired outcomes and to the resources required to produce the program outputs that yield the desired outcomes. Make sure the desired results are expressed in unambiguous language. Then test the developed measures to make sure you’re not measuring what doesn’t matter, or worse, measuring the wrong things and incentivizing the wrong behaviors. Whether you are a hospital, a car dealership, or any other business, government or nonprofit, the same principles apply for developing good performance measures.

The unintended consequences of doing measurement badly are, in the case of the VA, potentially life threatening. Can your organization afford to do performance measurement badly, or not at all?

You can learn more about developing measures that matter in our book, The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard. You can order the book on our website or on Amazon.
David Wilsey David Wilsey

David Wilsey is the Chief Operating Officer with the Balanced Scorecard Institute and co-author of The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard.

4 Reasons Business Intelligence Systems are Like an (Unused) Gym Membership

By: David Wilsey

May 23, 2014 11769 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus
My business intelligence (BI) and analytics software salesman friend said something interesting to me the other day over lunch. He said, “I don't sell software, I sell gym memberships. When someone joins a gym they are not really buying the membership. They are buying the dream of improved health and a better physique. Their intention is to work out every day and fulfill that dream, despite the fact that few people ever actually follow up. Selling BI software is the same way. I'm not selling the software; I’m selling the dream of improved insight and competitive advantage.”

The unspoken implication was that few people ever get significant benefit from their software system, a conclusion I have also observed over my years in strategic performance management.

There are many common reasons that your strategic performance management software system might be getting less use than the gym membership you bought last January.  Below are the top 4 that I’ve seen as well as some tips for avoiding them.  

Reason 1: You bought into the hype but not the skills
I overheard a CEO recently saying that he needed to buy into the big data craze.  It was clear that this person had no idea what big data or predictive analytics meant, but he definitely needed to buy some.  Many people seem to think if they just buy some software, within weeks a “number cruncher” will magically come down from a mountain with answers to all of their problems. That is like thinking that if I buy a shovel, a garden will magically appear in my back yard. Performance management and statistical analysis skills are critical to creating value in this field.
 
Reason 2: You keep the results a secret
The first question some people ask when considering a performance system is, “how do I keep everyone out of my data?”  Security around private customer, employee, or some financial information is an absolute must, but a surprising amount of strategic organizational performance information can be shared with leaders and managers.  Leaders need information to make decisions and limiting access can communicate that strategy management is something to be left to only a select few.  Analyzing data is only the first step.  The dialog around why the results occurred and what should happen next are just as critical.
 
Reason 3: You only use out-of-the-box performance report design
The standard templates provided by the software companies are almost always designed to make the software sell well, as opposed to informing YOUR strategic decision making. Good performance reports communicate three things clearly: 1) How is OUR organization currently performing, 2) Why are WE getting the results that we are getting?  And 3) What are WE doing to improve our results?

Reason 4: You count and report on everything that can be counted.
Just because the vendor promises that this tool can handle the volume doesn’t mean that this is a good idea. Strategic performance management is about focusing on the most critical things first. I would recommend selecting a handful of critical performance gaps and focus your data collection, analysis, and improvement efforts on those.  Teach everyone in your organization how to do this effectively before you expand to other areas.

There are many more common mistakes, but these four are top of mind for me.  Please share other mistakes you’ve seen in the comments section below.

For more about how to improve your performance analysis, see the Performance Analysis chapter of The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard.
David Wilsey David Wilsey

David Wilsey is the Chief Operating Officer with the Balanced Scorecard Institute and co-author of The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard.

"Fight" of the Bumblebee

By: David Wilsey

Feb 14, 2014 14875 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus
Have you heard the common legend that scientists have proven that bumblebees, in terms  of aerodynamics, can’t fly?  This is a myth that came about because about eighty years ago an aerodynamicist made this statement based on an assumption that the bees’ wings were a smooth plane.  It was reported by the media before the aerodynamicist actually looked at the wing under a microscope and found that the assumption was incorrect.  While the scientist and the media issued retractions, the legend lives on.

Unfortunately, in the management world, decisions are made every day based on “legends” rather than on real evidence. At a manufacturing company I once worked for, it was a well-known “fact” that it was more profitable to discount prices to increase volume in a particular market.  Even after a team of business managers proved discounting was a money loser, certain sales managers continued to rigorously advocate for the discount strategy for years.  I like to refer to any ongoing argument like this as the "Fight" of the Bumblebee.  This fight is the most difficult when the bumblebee argument is emotionally compelling (they’re not supposed to be able to fly!) and the truth is difficult to convey (bumblebees’ wings encounter dynamic stall in every oscillation cycle, whatever that means). Everyone loves a discount and can see pallets of product going out the door.  Not everyone understands some of the indirect nuances that contribute to profit.

Winning the fight of the bumblebee is dependent on making sure that you are interpreting, visualizing, and reporting performance information in a meaningful way.  People have to be trained to appreciate the difference between gut instinct and data-driven decision making.  Once they see analysis done well a couple of times, they will start asking for it.

The key to interpreting a measurement is comparison. And the trick is to display the information in a way that effectively answers the question, Compared to what?  Visualizing performance over time identifies trends that show data direction and development and provide context for the underlying story relative to strategy. The simplest and most effective way I’ve seen for consistently visualizing data is with a Smart Chart (or XmR chart), a tool showing the natural variation in performance data.

Once you have a better idea of how to interpret your data, reporting the information in a way that is meaningful is important.  Reports should always be structured around strategy, so that people have the right context to understand what the data is about.  Reports should answer basic questions you need to know, such as what is our current level of performance?, why are we getting that result?, and what are we going to do next?

For more about how to interpret, visualize and report performance, see The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard.
Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

Wigs, Pigs, and Desserts

By Gail Stout Perry

Jan 31, 2014 18027 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus
Some of our clients use Franklin Covey’s methods to improve human and organizational performance, including the use of WIGs (Wildly Important Goals). I’ve wrestled with how to integrate Covey’s approach, which is sometimes loosely or creatively applied, into the balanced scorecard framework in a way that is disciplined, consistent, and simple to understand.
   
Recently, it dawned on me that WIGs are really based on the concept of contribution – a concept we use when measuring performance in the balanced scorecard framework. So first, I need to explain the concept of contribution.

I recently wrote a blog (Skinny Jeans and the New Math) in which I was trying to watch my weight but could not directly measure my weight via a scale, so I used a correlate measure based on a pair of skinny jeans in my suitcase.  A different technique to measure something indirectly is to use a contributing measure.  A contributing measure is something you can measure directly and which you believe will influence the results on the thing that you cannot measure directly (in this example, my weight). I actually have two contributing measures that I use while traveling, but until now I haven’t told anyone my secret.  

Science has shown that several things contribute to weight gain or loss. I have chosen two that are within my control and are easily measurable: (1) How often I eat sweets while on a trip, and (2) How often my gym shoes actually get removed from my suitcase for a brisk walk around the hotel. By setting goals of one or fewer desserts per week (chocolate is my weakness) and using the gym shoes at least once a week, I can keep track of these two contributing measures, both of which will influence what the scale will say when I finally get home.
   
And that’s exactly what Franklin Covey’s WIG approach is.  It’s a series of contributing goals/measures in which one action influences resultant performance on another.
 
So, how can the Covey methodology effectively integrate with the balanced scorecard framework?  Here’s how:  An executive’s WIG must be based on either a strategic performance measure / target or on a strategic initiative.  These are two scorecard elements that are most likely to have actionable contributing factors that an individual can relate to.   The contributing WIGs (which individuals are tasked to create to support the executive’s WIG) are the individual activities or measurable milestones or measurable contributing indicators that ensure individual performance contributes to the overall executive WIG, thereby contributing to the execution of organizational strategy. To further align the Covey execution methods to the organization’s strategy, a disciplined process should be deployed at Tier 3 (individual and team performance objectives for the scorecard system) to ensure that the individual understands the strategic context of their personal and team WIGs.
 
To learn more about how different frameworks integrate into a logical, holistic system to improve organizational performance, we invite you to explore The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard.  
Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

Translation Please

By: Gail Stout Perry

Oct 31, 2013 13403 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

I am absolutely addicted to the television show, “Big Bang Theory.”  Have you seen it?  I catch myself laughing out loud at it...even when watching it on planes (yes, that’s a little embarrassing). People who are fluent in the language of math and science are actually bilingual.  And that’s what I love about the quirky characters on Big Bang Theory. They not only understand how to string words and punctuation together to form sentences and paragraphs that communicate meaning, but they also know how to string numbers and symbols together to form equations that communicate meaning.  And when someone is fluent in both, sometimes they slip back and forth between the two languages and things get comical.
  
I’ve already admitted that I am a geek, so let me give you an example from my own life. When I was in college, I had to go over to the business building to take a class.  As I sat down and prepared for class to start, I noticed something carved into the top of the desk.  It was a calculus equation.  When read aloud using the literal “word” meaning versus the “math” meaning, the equation said:  “The limit (e.g., cannot go any further) of an Engineering Student when his calculus GPA approaches Zero is a transfer to the College of Business”. I laughed out loud.  Several of my friends had recently transferred out of engineering and into business. I can only imagine which one scrawled this equation on the desk.  Or how many students had looked at it and not understood that it was a funny message. 

Understanding that math is actually a language is a very important concept for developing meaningful performance measures for your organization.  Some people are fluent in the language of business. Others are fluent in the language of math and statistics.  Few, it seems, are fluent in both. 
 
We’ve found that whenever an organization is struggling to develop KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), it is most often due to a “language barrier” in translating from the strategic intent of the business (words and sentences) to meaningful measures of performance (numbers and equations).
 
And there is actually a very simple solution. In the Institute's Nine-Step-To-Success™ framework, we use something called “intended results”. These brief written statements are the “Rosetta stone” for translating the “in plain English” strategic intent of an objective into a meaningful measure that can be used for strategic performance analysis.  

To learn more, check out Chapter 10 of The Institute Way or join us for an upcoming training course. We’ll show you how to crack the code and move fluidly between both languages.

Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

Dear Abby-Gail: How Much is Too Much?

By Gail Stout Perry

Oct 29, 2013 6363 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

There has been a lot of interest in my recent blog post:  “Balanced Scorecard Gone Bad: What’s that Funky Smell?”  Several people have posted comments and questions in various forums, but one in particular deserves special attention.
  
From Gary: I believe a key point in your message is that a strategy is never static due to external changes (e.g., competitor moves, new technologies), so it will require continuous adjusting.  But this raises a different question. Since as strategic objectives change or the emphasis of what to accomplish within strategic objectives change, this means some KPIs may be dropped and others added (or their weightings may need to be tweaked). As a result, how much change in KPIs can an organization tolerate?

Dear Gary: This is an excellent question.  When strategy changes, then KPIs will have to change. Organizational tolerance to change is affected by several things. 

(1) Is the scorecard system engrained in the organizational culture such that management trusts the system and uses it to make decisions?  If so, they will have relatively high tolerance for change in the KPIs because they understand that the change is necessary if they are to continue to rely upon the system to make strategically relevant decisions. 

(2) Given that you know you need to adjust the KPI, how quickly can you achieve 7 data points on the new or adjusted KPI?  In other words, is there baseline information available that will help you quickly establish an XmR chart?  If not, can you achieve frequent enough reporting points to have useful trend analysis within 6 months?  If you were using an excellent KPI in the past and then switch to one in which it will be a year (or more) before you have enough data for management to have the 7 data points needed to make statistically sound decisions, this will cause frustration and lower the tolerance for the necessary change.

(3) Can your software system handle these changes without losing your historical performance on the objective (assuming the objective does not change)?  Knowing that you won’t be throwing away historical information increases tolerance for change.

(4) What about rewards tied to KPIs?  How do your Human Resources processes link individual or group performance and incentives to KPI performance?  What will be the result of changing a KPI right now?  If it can’t be changed due to a covenant with employees, can it be removed from the calculation so that you don’t keep working towards an “expired strategy”?

I invite feedback from others.  What else has impacted your organization’s tolerance for needed change in its KPIs?  And does anyone want to share their tips for overcoming resistance to this sort of change?

For more challenges and solutions, we invite you to explore The Institute Way: Simply Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard.

David Wilsey David Wilsey

David Wilsey is the Chief Operating Officer with the Balanced Scorecard Institute and co-author of The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard.

Garth Brooks and the Music Industry’s Performance Measurement Problem

By David Wilsey

Oct 11, 2013 11697 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

guitarThe rock music industry in 1991 was in transition. The glam-rock and new wave music of the eighties was out and the industry had not yet settled on alternative rock and grunge as the iconic sound of the decade. And most shockingly, after almost forty years of fans preferring rock music to country music by a reliably constant percentage, sales figures were indicating that preferences were shifting from rock to country. 

The industry made what seemed like a very logical assumption: the shift was obviously caused by the incredible crossover appeal of Country superstar Garth Brooks, who had recently taken the music industry by storm. They also took very predictable actions in response: several promising rock bands were dumped while resources were shifted to other country acts.

In the short run, these actions seemed to reinforce the trend, with even more country music sales. But then something very strange happened: the sales numbers slowly drifted back to the exact pre-Garth Brooks percentages, with rock being preferred by the same percentage it had for decades. Industry analysts were left scratching their head. What just happened?

What they found after some analysis was surprising. In March 1991, the industry began counting record sales using the Nielsen SoundScan system. Before that, sales were counted by calling stores across the U.S. to collect sales data – an incredibly ineffective collection method. Unfortunately, not all record stores were able to implement the SoundScan system immediately and continued using the old method for months or even years. On the other hand, one behemoth was online immediately: Wal-Mart. In the early days of SoundScan, every single time a Wal-Mart sales associate scanned a CD, it was counted by SoundScan and reordered, whereas record store sales (and reorders) were hit-and-miss. 

Here’s the thing that nobody had thought about before: in 1991, country music fans primarily bought their music from Wal-Mart and rock music fans primarily bought their music from record stores.  Once all of the record stores were online, it became clear that the appearance of a shift in preference was nothing more than a measurement data collection problem.

The lesson to this story is that it is critical to resist the urge for a knee-jerk reaction to data such as dumping promising rock bands! There is a process discipline to performance analysis and improvement and the steps are simple. First, a Smart Chart should be used to make sure you are correctly interpreting the data. Then, a root-cause analysis is in order to understand why you are getting the results you are getting. This root cause analysis would have likely revealed the issue with the data in SoundScan being dominated by Wal-Mart sales. Finally, an improvement action plan is implemented and the results are monitored over time. 

To learn more about how to interpret, report and react to your performance data, see the PuMP Blueprint Certification Workshop, or see The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management Using the Balanced Scorecard.

Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

Skinny Jeans and the New Math

By Gail Stout Perry

Oct 9, 2013 13358 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

I am an engineer by training and a math geek at heart.  So articles about girls and math catch my eye.  Did you know that researchers agree that one’s ability to excel at math and science is as much about attitude as it is about “natural gifts” or gender?  This affirms my own less-than-scientific research findings.  I have a daughter and from her earliest years, I showed her how to apply math to everyday activities (baking was our favorite hands-on lesson, of course).  And anytime friends of hers would complain about how hard math was, I’d make them all stand up and shout, “Girls ROCK at math!!!”   It’s all about the attitude.   Of course, I had a good role model for this. My father showed me how fun math was when I was a child as we built motors together and played around with electronics...scribbling equations and schematics as we went.  I never feared math and science...they were FUN!  

In my work life, I’ve discovered that dread of math, especially statistics, is widespread in the business community.   So let’s tackle something fun:  the concept of correlation.

When developing performance measures in business, we sometimes face a stumbling block in that the thing we desire most to measure is, unfortunately, impossible to measure directly.  So, we have to look for a “proxy” measure that is correlated.

Let me illustrate with an example from daily life.  Let’s say I want to know if I am maintaining my ideal weight versus gaining weight.  It’s easy to measure that directly - hop on the bathroom scale.  But, unfortunately, I can’t.  I travel constantly so I do not have a bathroom scale with me most days. 

So I have a correlate that I measure.  I always carry the same pair of skinny jeans with me.  As long as the jeans will button, I am fairly certain of what the bathroom scale might say, if I had one.  The fit of my jeans is correlated to my weight.   Now, a statistician will remind us that “correlation does not equal causation.”  This simply means is that I need to consider that other things may be causing my jeans not to fit – for example, maybe they shrunk in the wash.  But understanding this, I am reasonably certain that they are a good proxy measure while on the road.

See how easy it was to master two important concepts for measuring performance in business - Direct Measure and Correlated Measure?  It’s all about the attitude!!

To learn much, much more about how to develop meaningful performance measures, we invite you to explore The Institute Way or join us at an upcoming training course.

Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way with over 20 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting experience with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations.

PS: Our Balanced Scorecard Saved The U.S. Army $26 Million

By Gail Stout Perry

Sep 30, 2013 8526 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

I was working with an Army command at Ft. Sam Houston this week and had invited a special guest - Scott Hencshel - to address the group regarding the organizational challenges of implementing a balanced scorecard system within Army.  (Scott’s command is also stationed at Ft. Sam Houston -  Army Medical Department Center & School (AMEDDC&S), an Institute “Award for Excellence” winner.)  

As Scott was wrapping up, someone asked a final question, “What was the biggest benefit that AMEDDC&S realized after implementing its strategic balanced scorecard?”  Scott talked about alignment, focus, and data-driven decision making.  Then as he was making his way to the door he turned back and said, “Oh yeah, we immediately saved the Army $26 million.” 

Say what?!?!

AMEDDC&S is where the U.S. Army educates and trains all of its medical personnel – over 27,000 soldiers. One of the strategic measures on AMEDD’s balanced scorecard is “attrition rates.”  Before the scorecard was implemented, it was commonly believed that discipline issues were the primary reason for soldiers not completing their training programs – because resolution of these discipline issues were what consumed everyone’s time.  Once the scorecard was implemented, attrition was measured more thoroughly and two discoveries were made:

  1. Attrition was MUCH higher than originally thought.  The traditional calculation was flawed and attrition was actually over 34%.  That means 1/3 of those entering the medical training programs would “drop-out” thereby wasting the Army’s investment in their training.
  2. Academic performance, not discipline, was discovered to be the primary reason for attrition.

So as the scorecard team delved further, they looked for root causes of poor academic performance resulting in attrition incidents.  They discovered that a major cause was a lack of communication between the Brigade leadership and the AMEDDC&S faculty.  Students in the medical training program were being assigned Brigade duties that prevented them from having proper opportunities to study and prepare for classes and exams.   A prime example was students falling asleep during final exams due to having served Brigade guard duty the night before. 

Once the communications issues were corrected, overall attrition rapidly dropped from 34% to below 20%...thereby saving the U.S. Army $26 million.

PS:  Did I mention that I have the best job in the world?!?  It is extremely rewarding to hear about results like this.

For more examples of break-through performance, we invite you to read “The Institute Way: Simply Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard. 



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