Before & After

My organization requires that we write our annual performance goals into a web-based system that can be sent to our bosses for their review. As I was working on this last week, it struck me that in the past I would not have written those goals the way I do now.

For example, “improve service” would have been a typical goal for one of my previous positions. TodayI’d be examining: What data will be used to measure the improvement? What is the target? What type(s) of service would be in scope? What customer segment would be studied? Who are the stakeholders for this service, and how many would have influence or control over aspects of the improvement?

In other words, I’d be a lot more specific – call it SMART if you want – and at the end of the year I could clearly tell whether or not I had met the goal. In the past, I’d say “well I worked really hard all year on this and I think people are more satisfied with the service, based on the 2 – 3 customers I spoke with.”

Now, it’s still possible to “game” the system by picking easy targets that would be hard to miss, or choosingfocus areaswithout established metrics. But, I wonder how much more effective I would have been as a supervisor, manager, or director if I had known and used a process- and metrics-oriented approach to leadership.

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So here’s my question to my readers! Have you used a Lean, Six Sigma, or other process-based approach your whole professional career, or did you learn it mid-career? It would be interesting to know what your reflections on the difference it might have made, had you been exposed to the concepts and methodology earlier in life – I invite you to share.

[Note: For those who may not have run into this acronym before, SMART refers to goals or metrics that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. There are a few variant versions but all reflect the same basic principles.]

Comments 2

  1. Rob

    With objectives and targets reference to point 11 of Demings 14 points: Eliminate numerical goals, numerical quotas and management by objectives. Substitute leadership, should be practiced more often.

    Your data or results can be improved by:

    1. distorting the data
    2. distorting the system
    3. improving the system

    Normally the first two points will be actioned first, then the third. Normally, the third point (which was probably the aim of the objective in the first place) is the least likey to occur.

    Deming added: ’Management by numerical goal is an attempt to manage without knowledge of what to do.’

  2. Sue Kozlowski

    Rob, thanks for taking us back to the basics. Even though Deming did have a distrust of numerical goals (with which, as you point out, quality can be sacrificed), I have found that having a target and metrics have been very helpful in getting stakeholders to understand the impact of poor process performance on the customer.

    I have seen an amusing t-shirt slogan that reads, "When all else fails, manipulate the data." I think our responsibility is to get the stakeholders to achieve an understanding of what data is, what it is not, and how to utilize valid data in pursuit of good decision-making.
    –Sue K.

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