A fresh perspective on performance metrics

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I’ve been reading a pretty good book called Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success and there’s a ton of great ideas in it. I think anyone who is involved in performance management or measuring the success of specific activities in an organization should read this. It has a lot of great tidbits in it but I think one of the really powerful themes touched on in the book is the discussion of the context of the measuring system. In this case, the context is: What are the things that we’re going to use these measurements for?
How successful your performance management or measurement system is going to be has a lot to do with how the people that are being measured by it see the system itself. If they see it as a means of finding problems, punishing non-performance, or generally as a way for management to seek out underachievers and carve them out of the organization; you’re inviting people to undermine the system to the largest degree possible and quite possibly render your performance management system ineffective. The author gives some great examples around this and then talks about what makes a good context for a measurement system.
The key takeaway essentially is that the people involved in it have to see it as a force for change. They have to see it as a mechanism for really understanding the organization and building in higher performance as a stakeholder community. By this I mean they are responsible for bolstering performance, they have a say in it, and the measurements are not being used so much as a mechanism for punishment but as a jumping off point for further investigation. The question then becomes how can we as team or an organization perform better? It’s a really powerful and persuasive argument. You hear all the time to be careful what you measure because that’s what’s going to get done, about the dangers inherent in laying down a measurement system that incentivizes the wrong behavior, or measures for measurements sake; but this was a little bit different spin on things. I thought it was a powerful concept and it’s at the core of whether or not you’re going to be successful because it speaks to the human engagement of all the members of the team that are involved in organizational performance. So I think it’s a great read and if you have a chance, pick it up. I’m always on the lookout for great books like this so if you have a recommendation I’d love to hear it.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

De-cluttering, de-stressing, and de-bugging the data call process

Data Call Process

One of the things that gets under-counted in most organizations is the time and effort spent responding to data calls. I think there’s probably a great piece research work that could be done just in looking at data calls that fall outside of normal business process flows within large organizations whether they are public sector or private sector. In my experience this is something that consumes an inordinate amount of time in many organizations. That’s not to say that data calls are necessarily a bad thing. Oftentimes the reason that this special information is being requested to support a change initiative that’s going to have a positive impact on the organization or to supplement the informational gathering apparatus that is already in place.

Since this additional information is required for decision making, there are a lot of legitimate reasons these data calls are so prevalent but the part that strikes me is that there’s no significant infrastructure dedicated in most cases to managing these data calls systematically. There’s no recognition of that fact that enough time is being spent on these data calls to do something about managing them for the benefit of the enterprise as a whole. I think that is short sighted on the part of these organizations.

Take the public sector for example. If you look at the things that have come out for organizations to respond to in the last few years, whether it be Portfoliostat, Techstat, 21st Century Digital Strategy, Cloudfirst, or Shared-first, all these different directives to these organizations include heavy data collection components but if you look across them, there are a lot of commonalities.  A really good understanding of the application portfolio is prevalent in quite a few of the ones that have gone out for IT organizations. So not only could a systematic approach to managing those data calls have served to lower the cost to complete each one, raise the quality, and deliver more enterprise value but beyond that; the collection of those informational resources all together could give you extraordinary decision making abilities.

I think some of the things organizations should be looking to do is formalize the processes around:

  • how they support resourcing and tasking around data calls
  • how they look at solutions that will help them technically manage that information for the organization as a whole
  • how will they support that value chain that takes you from this is the data I want to collect, this is how I’m going to collect it, all the way through to the analysis and reporting that I need to do

That is the value chain that we’ve attempted to build out and support for education, public sector, and business with Exam4schools, Exam4government, and Exam4business. I’m curious what people are using right now. I’m sure there are organizations that are looking at these data calls from a systemic standpoint and I’d love to hear what tools and processes you are using to support these efforts.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

There is such thing as information overload

Information overload

I admit it. I get a little bit cranky when people say things like forms processing or document management. Not because I don’t think there’s a reason to have tools to help facilitate those types of activities but because I think by focusing on the processing of forms, you take away the focus on the outcomes that the organization is trying to drive. It’s one of the reasons why I talk so much about assessments because it is oftentimes a more apt phrase for what the organization is trying to do. When you gather information in a form, you generally gather that information so that you can evaluate something, perform a business process, or execute on the next step on some particular work flow.

The point of it is not simply processing the form or managing the document; it’s using the information that you collect to drive value for the organization as whole. That is why I think it’s so important to think about those types of things more from the standpoint of what are you trying to drive rather than the standpoint of simply managing information through a workflow. That mindset of management information through a workflow inevitably ends up with more information under management than is required. You end up collecting information because you can rather than because you need it to make a decision or to execute a business process and it’s a huge problem.

One of the amazing things about our modern technology environment is the ability to manage and store information. However human beings haven’t similarly upgraded their ability to process information in a way that enables better decision making. So the fact that you can store petabytes of data doesn’t mean that you should do it just because you can.  There are plenty of reasons to store information, to do big data type analysis, to make determinations of a whole host of different types of things, or to do ongoing investigations of things that might help your business. However if you’re trying to support a specific business process, I believe that you ought to keep the information that you gather to a minimum because there’s a real cost in gathering that information that goes far beyond what it takes to store it on hardware.  That’s the smallest component of that cost.  So that’s my piece and I’m sticking to it.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

A Jiu Jitsu champion’s views on what it takes to excel

I was listening to an interview with one of the most accomplished Jiu Jitsu players of all time, Marcelo Garcia, and he was talking about how he prepared for the championships and what drove him. I want bring up something really interesting that he said and I think it can be applied across anything that you do. If you want to check it out the point I want to bring up happens at the 5:30 mark in the above video.  He was asked, “What’s the most important characteristic that you can have to excel in this world?” He at first started out with a really kind of patented answer and I almost turned my brain off.  He said you have to give 100%.  That answer or give 110% I think is used so often that it’s become meaningless.  It’s what he said afterwards though that I found really interesting.  He said that if you give something just 80% and you don’t get there, you have wasted that 80%. I thought that really was something a little bit different from anything I had heard before and kind of changed the way I think about giving 100%.

When you think about the amount of time that you spend at anything that you’re trying to accomplish, whether its personal advancement, professional advancement, or a hobby, and you think about the amount of time that you put into it, you understand that you have a finite amount of time available to you. It really does put in perspective what giving 100% means when you’re doing something. Essentially, if you’re not giving it your all, you’re wasting your time. You’re not going to get where you want to go and you might as well not be doing it at all; you might as well be doing whatever else it is that you might want to do whether it is sitting on the couch watching TV or reading a book. With that logic he was saying that if you’re not going to give it 100% than what are you really accomplishing? So I thought it was a really interesting point; I’d never quite heard it phrased that way and I thought I’d pass it along.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Agendas: Keeping you focused

Agendas keeping you focused

Every once in a while you hear somebody saying, “Oh they have their own agenda,” and it doesn’t always have the most positive connotation. From somebody who’s spent most of their life in meetings, some of which do not have an agenda despite the overwhelming consensus in the best practice area that that’s how it should be, I think it’s ok and should actually be encouraged to have your own agenda.  In fact if you don’t have your own agenda and no one else does either, you’ll probably all just end up wasting your time.  When I find myself in that situation where I’m going into a meeting and for whatever reason it would be uncomfortable or improper for me to ask or provide an agenda I like to spend a little bit of time developing my own agenda going into the meeting.  You should know things like:

  • Why am I attending this meeting
  • What am I hoping to achieve by attending this meeting

I also like to think about what the other people that are participants in the meeting might be hoping to achieve from it and what their agendas might be so I’m at least prepared for whatever direction the meeting might take.  Finally once I’m in the meeting and things begin to drift into that agendaless zone that happens so often when you don’t have a plan and the topics sort of drift left and right, I’ll try to steer the meeting towards value.  Simple things like

  • What are we hoping to accomplish in  today’s meeting
  • What are the actions that we are looking to get as we move out of today’s meeting

Simple prompts like that that get people back thinking about why are we here and why do we want everyone to take time out of their day to be in this one place or be on this one call.  To have the conversation be brought back around to what are we trying to solve is usually enough to get people tracking back towards value.  I’m curious what other people think as always and I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

You talk too much…and you never shut up!

gift of gab

I admit I love to talk.  Some people like talk about the “gift of gab.” Now I’m not sure if I have it but I do know that I definitely enjoy listening to myself talk.  However, as I’ve gotten a little bit older I’ve slowly but surely come to the realization that there are other people that are involved in a conversation.  If others aren’t involved in the conversation it is a monologue and people look at you funny, so this post is for all of you talkers out there.

If you find yourself in the midst of what should be a conversation and you realize that the other person hasn’t said a word in five minutes take a breath and see if maybe, just maybe they have something to add.  One thing that I try to make a concerted effort to do every time is listen first. If you get engaged in a casual conversation make it a point to really listen to what the other person has to say and let them get engaged in a story.  I find that if I work on listening first not only is my part of the conversation better because I know a little bit more about the other person but when people notice that you’re actively listening, a lot of times it prompts them to really open up. I think there’s almost a cue when you are actively listening to somebody that lets them know, “Hey this person is not going to interrupt me and they’re going to let me finish,” and because of that you get a better response on their part.

Finally I think that for every talker out there it’s really important to think about the conversations that you’ve had after you’ve had them. I think this is especially true and relevant in the business context.  Think about how you went through it and where you might have been better served to do some listening rather than speaking. It’s from my client calls or workshops with clients where I think I’ve really learned that the key to success is listening more talking less. I always try to take a minute and just think about the conversation I had and not just from the context of what was actually said, what I need to do about it, what are the action items, and other basic housekeeping details. I like to reflect on some growing points as well such as:

  • How could I have made the call better
  • How could I have listened more
  • Where could I have put in prompts to the cue the other person to speak
  • Where could I have elicited more information

As I said at the beginning, one of the keys to success is ensuring that you do at least as much listening as talking in any conversation because it’s what enables you to better meet the expectation of the other person. Many times, what helps you get your ideas across and enables you to convince the other person of the benefits of a particular idea or objective isn’t what you say so much, it’s how well you listen to them and how well you react to their cues.  I’m curious what other people have to say on the topic. It’s an area where I know I could still learn quite a little bit about.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

The buck stops here: Increasing accountability in the office

buck stops here

Accountability is one of the key ingredients to creating a high performing organization.  Being able to count on people doing the things that they say they’re going to do is critical for organizations to be able to improve and perform.  As a leader it is your job to create a team that can be counted on to execute.  If a team member fails to perform the fault ultimately isn’t with the team; it will fall on the leader’s shoulders who is responsible for their actions. I’ve made a list of some tips to help increase accountability around the office space.

  1. Remember at the close of every meeting to assign action items to specific people.
  2. When you send an email, specifically include your ask in the form a request to that person. Don’t just expect them to take the next step.
  3. Hold to deadlines and calendar dates.  If it was important enough to put a deadline on it, it’s important enough to keep to it.
  4. The flip side of that is also true. Make sure that you don’t arbitrarily assign deadlines and dates to things that don’t require it because then it’s hard to tell the difference between what’s important and what’s not.
  5. As a leader, manager, or team member, make sure you hold yourself to the same standard that you want everyone else held to.

As always I’m curious what everyone else thinks.  If you have any suggestions to add to this list I’d love to hear them.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.