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“Shelley Sweet was recommended to me at a time when I was seeking professional assistance to lead the District in the development of a strategic plan. It was a fortunate meeting – with Shelley’s experience and guidance we were able to assemble a broad range of community members to form a design team. The team participated in a series of activities to assess, discuss, and develop the outcomes to create the classroom of the future. Under Shelley’s leadership, the design team was able to propose to the Board of Education, seven completed “initiatives” that would provide the course of action to realize the District’s vision.”

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Five Pitfalls of Organizational Process Metrics


Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 11.56.33 AMTraditional metrics are centered on financial, operational, and employee data. The newer organizational process metrics measure how a process works from the company point of view and the customer point of view. How is the company doing at meeting a customer needs (such as accuracy, responsiveness, service, speed, completeness) and how is the process doing being efficient and effective so the company can be competitive in the market place at a good price?

This article lists five key pitfalls that organizations face as they start an Organizational Process Metrics initiative and implement it across the company.

Pitfall #1 – Where’s the Decision and Action?

Some companies begin process metrics by identifying and gathering metrics for each process. They find cost, volume, time, customer, and quality metrics for process at every level. They gather too many metrics which appear on voluminous possibly unread reports. Instead what’s important is to ask the question: Which decisions do we need to make from this process, how would we measure that, and then what action will we take after looking at the data/metric? If leaders or employees are not going to make decisions after looking at the metric, don’t measure it. Just skip the whole exercise. Find the few critical measures that will enable you to make a decision and take action. If the measure says the process is running fine, then the action is don’t do anything. If the measure says there is a problem, take an action to understand it and improve the process.

Pitfall #2 -Not Linked from Strategy to Process to Operations to Employee

The second pitfall is that organizations choose measures that don’t link together. First, processes measures need to relate to the overall strategy. Some companies have Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that relate to strategy, but often these KPIs are not linked to the processes that will make them operational in the business.  Do leaders and managers know how their units can impact the processes that impact strategy and KPI’s and down to the specific sub-processes in their area of responsibility? And do employees know how their work impacts a measure and process? It is important to have metrics that link across both the functions in an organization and link across the hierarchy of roles. Kaplan and Norton’s strategy maps not only do that, but they make the linkages transparent for employees. They often display the real data in electronic dashboards as well.

Pitfall #3 – Irregular Management

Now once the company has defined the data attributes for metrics and linked them, it’s not a one time quarterly activity. Leaders, middle manages, supervisors, and employees need to know who is responsible for collecting metric data, how often, and who makes the decision and takes action. When are issues escalated and to whom? There needs to be a calendared discipline of process metric management, for current measures, leading indicators, and historical trends.

Pitfall #4 Too Many Metrics

We know that there is detailed data for financial reporting, and hopefully this data enables different levels of management to see the impact their group is making. I find that when companies start gathering quantitative process data they get excited about what they learn, and they want to gather more types of data with greater frequency. I encourage them to start small. First define the improvement goals for a process and then identify and gather one to two pieces of baseline data that will demonstrate the current quantitative value of the measure. Then target where the leader wants that measure to be after implementation of process improvements. Measure that (when you get there). These give you the ROI on your project. Now there are other data elements you will want to gather to understand a process better. These are diagnostic measures, but the company doesn’t have to go on gathering all of those over time. Starting with the before(baseline measures) and after (success measures) ROI measures is a good way to simplify.

Pitfall #5 Housed only with Department Boundaries

This pitfall is a reality of organizational metrics, because financial and operational metrics are probably only currently kept within the departments. The departments measure themselves with these metrics. But end-to-end processes extend across departments. If the company has cross functional processes but no cross functional metrics, departments will not know how their work impacts steps later in the process (and ultimately the customer) nor will they know how work upstream is flowing and might impact them. Cross functional measures are guides all along the process for each department.

How to Get Started on the Right Foot

I recommend starting with some experiments for the Organizational Process Metrics. Pick one to two critical end-to-end processes with Process Owners who are excited about being early adopters and determine what decisions and actions are necessary for this process to align with strategic goals. Then select your ROI measures and measure the baseline. Set up roles and responsibilities and determine how to communicate to the managers and employees who will be involved. Do these early trials or experiments; see what works with your culture; see what you learn, and make revisions.

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7 comments to Five Pitfalls of Organizational Process Metrics

  • Sheena

    As roles change within a department and constant growth within the organization, what are some tips for implanting a continuous process?

    • shelley

      This is the reality of corporate life and allows growth. The Process Owner needs to pay attention to key roles and make sure new employees understand their roles in a process.

    • Emerson

      Hi Sheena. I think one of the many benefits you have when you are a BPM practitioner is the facility to change roles. Once you have a process diagram, metrics well defined and employees linked, this change will be a lot easier. By the way, this facility is one of the arguments I have used to convince the companies to use BPM.

  • Adam

    Sheena, I very much appreciated your article, as all of the advice that you offered in regards the approaches to take from the identification, collection, and utilization of metrics is very true. The identification and collection of metrics can be time-consuming and take a lot of resources, and nothing could be more discouraging to a project if those metrics turn out to be not relevant to the effort or, more painfully, ignored by management.

  • Stacy

    I feel like Pitfall #2 is something that organizations definitely need to keep top of mind as they set goals and put metrics in place. Without making sure there is alignment throughout, there’s a greater chance for ineffectiveness and milestones being missed.

  • Chet

    What you had said: “How to get started on the Right Foot” is very true. “processes work on company & customer point of view”, we may have to work extraordinarily well in order to resolve the pitfalls and dysfunction of the company/business issues which we are facing. Thanks for sharing.

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