The power of a team is simply awesome. I have had the distinct pleasure of working with some of the most effective teams thus far in my career. There are so many great articles and books out there about participating, creating, and enhancing teams. This article is not intended to duplicate these efforts, rather its focus is on the dynamic of data use within a team. The days where there is only one data specialist on a team has become part of the past. Everyone on the team needs to not only participate in the data analysis process, but contribute to it.
Let’s look at a model that is proven to be effective, financial oversight, as an example. Within most organizations every individual in a leadership position has the responsibility to manage a budget that represents the funding of the specific work done by their team. The financial department of an organization does not decide how each dollar is spent. Instead, the financial department makes sure that the flow of dollars is readily available, financial transactions take place, internal controls are followed, and processes and procedures are in place to maintain a healthy organization-wide fiscal environment. This type of financial empowerment sophistication in an organization also needs to be reflective of the data culture.
Key Performance Indicators (KPI) reflect the entire organization, not just one department. Yet, most KPIs are connected to department specific indicators. Often, performance management analysts are charged with the responsibility to pull the information together and conduct the analysis for organization wide KPI reporting. This process of assessing the current state of performance is not a simple extraction of data from a database; rather, it involves further investigation through dialogue with people throughout the organization. The flow of information will occur with greater ease when a team based atmosphere is the norm. This flow of information cannot be constrained to the KPI assessment process. Conversations about KPIs should be continuous. What teams should be engaged in these conversations? All of them. Given that all organizations are unique and have a structure that is unique to itself, lets use an example as a context to examine the team communication that needs to occur.
The best-case scenario is that the Reusable Cup Coffee company was monitoring its company-wide KPIs all year long. The reality is that things come up and the routine of monitoring can become interrupted. It is important to recognize that priorities of the day change and a routine may be interrupted. It is also important to accept that this can happen and not to engage in an “all or nothing” mindset. If any part of the routine is not followed, often people will look at it as a loss rather than a gain. As we move through the next steps in the KPI assessment process an emphasis will be placed on organizational teams using what they have rather than focusing on what they don’t. The best-case scenario generally indicates that conversation between department teams and amongst themselves are evident and have lead to a use of data where there have been no surprises, but confirmations. The saying “out-of-sight, out of mind” is true of KPIs. Often once sight has been restored, surprises in jarring and exciting forms may occur. No one person in an organization, or one team for that matter, can be the only ones looking and monitoring KPIs. A team can take the lead on facilitating the monitoring, but everyone has to ultimately participate.
What if your company is smaller? Maybe there are four people that make up your entire company, perhaps it is a company of one. No problem. For the company of four there must be someone who has taken the lead on the KPI assessment process. Find a thought partner within the company or contract with an analytic partner. If you are the company of one, reach out to a mentor or contract with an analytic company. There are many ways of forming a team, the team succeeds when everyone is committed to your mission and supports a data driven culture.
Blog #3 question: Have you empowered your company with the formation/mobilization of a team to facilitate the KPI assessment process?
Blog #4’s sneak peak: The first step the team needs to take- identifying data sources.
Knowing where you are going can be perplexing at times. The cause of this situational complexity is less to do about the final destination, but the steps involved to get there. You need a plan. An effective plan not only helps to simplify the process of getting to where you want to be, it also anticipates the need to solve unknown problems along the way. How do you solve unexpected problems? Given that they are going to be unexpected, the best way to prepare is to build in time to solve them. For example, lets consider two commuters. The first commuter regularly drives to work, and she has developed a routine where her commute usually lasts 25 minutes door to door. One evening an unexpected snowfall occurs. Come morning, the first commuter is caught off guard when she sees her car. There is four inches of snow on and around her car. The first commuter has an unexpected problem: more time is necessary to prepare her vehicle to get to work. If time is built into her plan to account for unexpected problems, there should be time to warm-up the car, clear off the snow that accumulated on the car and take the drive to work a bit slower than normal. Alternatively, if there is not time built in, the first commuter is going to be late. The second commuter uses public transportation. Like the first commuter, the second commuter has a well-established commuting routine that lasts 45 minutes each morning. Part of this commute requires a transfer from one subway line to the other. One morning, an unexpected problem arises; due to a maintenance issue, the connecting train is running 30 minutes behind schedule. The delayed train presents a problem that increases the likelihood that the second commuter will be late. If time was built into his plan, he could determine alternative means to get to work allowing him to arrive on time. Both the first and second commuters had very different scenarios that resulted in a common problem: their commutes were going to take longer.
Like commuting, regardless of the tools that you use, analyzing routines can be disrupted by unanticipated issues. The context of the problem may be situationally specific, yet the fundamental components of the problem will always be the same: time and money. Planning helps to minimize the affects the unknown risk may have on your project. An analysis process is a project, not a mere task. As such, a project requires planning within a set of constraints (namely time, talent, and funding) that is facilitated by a clear purpose based objective.
Defining the objective of the process is the first step. Consider the following KPI Assessment (KPIA) objective: After reviewing all the KPIs established for the 2017 performance period, the organization will be able to:
It is important to note that the above objective is specific to the KPIA process. During the assessment process the data that is associated with each KPI is organized and reviewed for its utility during the KPI Evaluation stage (KPIE). The KPIE will be a second phase process that also will have its own objective. KPIA prepares for KPIE. Figure 1 provides the overall timeline of subcomponents of the KPIA process.
Figure 2.1: KPIA Process Timeline
Please keep in mind that this timeline’s main purpose is to help you and your team get organized to perform a summative analysis of your organization’s KPIs. Feel free to adjust this timeline that best aligns to your current workflow and demands. The key idea is that all assessment of the KPIs is done in the next 30 days so that the evaluation process can begin. The amount of time and team resources needed to complete the assessment phase will vary depending on the number of KPIs as well as the quality and volume of the data.
Blog #2’s Action Question: What amount of time will your team need to devote to the KPI Assessment process over the next 30 days? (You may find it beneficial to put in writing).
Blog #3 sneak peek: The importance of teams.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are critical targets that allows an organization to know whether it is on or off track to achieving its mission. KPIs are also known as annual goals, measurable objectives, leading indicators, and metrics. Whatever the label, the concept of KPIs are the same, it is an attribute that is clearly defined in a succinct manner, aligned to the mission of the organization, and is measurable.
KPIs are often incorporated into an organization’s annual or multi-year strategic plan. Often tied to an organization’s fiscal calendar, KPIs are analyzed at the end of the fiscal year. The analysis leads to strategies that are implemented to enhance the efforts to achieve the organization’s mission and KPIs are tweaked or newly created for the next year.
Many organizations are seeing the end of their fiscal year come in range and with that all performance metrics are also approaching a timing finish line. Over the next 60 days, (November 15, 2017 -January 15, 2018) we will journey together through steps you can implement to facilitate the review of your organization’s KPIs. There will be two phases of this journey, the first will be the Key Performance Indicator Assessment process (KPIA) followed by the Key Performance Indicator Evaluation (KPIE). Each phase will take approximately 30 days (Figure 1.)
Regardless of your fiscal year start and end point, the strategies outlined can be used by any organization to help plan for the home stretch to the end of a performance period.
KPIs facilitate important conversations within organizations and this blog hopes to generate insightful conversation with those engaged in an organization’s end-of-year analysis. Each blog entry will end with a call to action question and a preview to the next day’s blog topic.
Blog #1’s Call to Action Question: Are you ready to engage in a process to gain insights from your organization’s KPIs?
Blog #2 sneak peek: KPIA Process Timeline