In this series on successful collaboration we’ve discussed the importance of Alignment—having a shared purpose, and Authority—knowing the roles and responsibilities of a group working together. Now I’ll share part 1 of the last major component: Accountability—defining and monitoring success.
Of course we need to know how we contribute to a project, but equally important is whether that effort contributed something meaningful. Did that effort make a difference? Did I do a good job? Are my skills developing? Knowing if you’re doing well and making a difference is a key component of job satisfaction. Whether we have a strong competitive streak or just need to know how well we are doing our job, we seek ways to quantify and measure our performance.
Carefully developed and maintained metrics are essential for building pride and a sense of accomplishment. The hardest part of developing an effective, useful and relevant measurement is deciding where to start. We all know the business adage, “Be careful what you measure, because that’s what you’ll get.” Measure the speed of someone’s performance and that’s what you’ll get—work done fast, but perhaps at the expense of quality. Measure quality in isolation and you get careful work that may bring production to a grinding halt. So what do you measure to drive balanced performance on the way to success?
Start any metric development with a discussion. Because everyone knows through Alignment and Authority what the group is trying to achieve—and what their role is in that effort—the ways to measure success for the group and individual should be clear. If getting something done by a specific date is important, monitoring and sharing project milestone information is important. If increasing skills to a department for new production is the goal, utilizing a Skills Matrix is a great way to monitor and show progress. Simply getting individuals to work faster isn’t the goal. The goal is to increase efficiency by developing skills, working smarter, utilizing technology (where appropriate) and collaborating effectively.
Staying competitive is a constant challenge and clearly dictates that we must always work to be more efficient; we must improve productivity. Choose an outcome measure that everyone understands and discuss how each member of the team impacts that metric. Set a positive expectation of improved performance. Let the team know that performance will be measured, analyzed, and discussed.
By starting a discussion about monitoring and improving productivity we begin to influence the group and individuals to improve their performance. We leverage this effect by gathering and analyzing the data on performance and then, by collectively monitoring the impact of the changes made, we can gauge the success of a group’s efforts.
Here’s an example: Start with the output of a team and divide that output by the labor hours needed to accomplish that work. In a casting shop, the output of the team can be measured in ounces of metal produced. Divide the total ounces produced in a period by the labor hours needed to produce those ounces over the same period (e.g., the total weight of the metal processed [finished items and scrap] divided by the labor hours for all employees involved in processing that metal [fig. 1]). Since you’re most likely tracking employee hours for payroll, use pay periods as convenient unit of time. These periods of information are regular and short enough to evaluate the impact of improvements and make changes as needed (fig. 2). Collect and graph the production numbers on a consistent basis.
Don’t start the process of establishing a productivity goal with a specific target in mind. Doing so may limit growth potential. Stating an initial goal of 5% improvement may be subconsciously interpreted by employees as the limit of what is possible. Others, without the benefit of the same information, may believe that the number isn’t based on any credible calculations at all. Initially, simply share the data available and post it. Discuss the information the team has collected. Ask the team what they think the data is telling them. Have a conversation about what they think the difference is in one period’s numbers compared to another period’s set of data. Ask why several times to get at root causes.
You will learn a lot about what is happening on the floor. Problem production items and unstable processes may reveal themselves as significant concerns. You may discover skill gaps, tool and equipment issues, or any number of other obstacles. Focus on these production issues—not only on the data collected—and you’ll experience a positive impact on efficiency.
As you work with employees on the floor to resolve these issues you’ll start to see productivity improvements, build credibility, and create a tangible impact on their success and satisfaction with their jobs. This encourages your team to focus on the issues that have the greatest impact, and therefore, the greatest return on investment. Demanding productivity increases before resolving underlying process or equipment issues will hamper your efforts to realize enduring, meaningful change.
Learn more in Part 2 of Matthew Anderson’s “Collaborate Like a Pro! Step 3: Accountability.” will post to The Studio soon!