Running by the Numbers

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

We are all measured on what we do and how well we do it.  After all, if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.  But what happens when we measure the wrong things?

The answer is simple, we get the wrong (or suboptimal) results.  Having KPIs is a good thing.  But the wrong KPI or the wrong target can spell disaster.  It is important to find the right measurements before you implement a tracking system.

Step 1 – What do you want to accomplish?  Define a goal.  It doesn’t have to be quantifiable at this point.  It can be something as simple as “reduce operating costs” or “improve customer satisfaction”.

Step 2 – Is your goal one that will not contradict others?  For example, if instead of “reduce operating costs” we used, “reduce labor costs” that could cause a reduction in throughput and then a net increase in operating costs if we are not careful.  Don’t improve in one area simply to worsen in another.

Step 3 – Determine not what will get you there, but what will hold you back.  Understanding the constraints to your goal will help you to find the areas where your KPIs will assist one another rather than conflict with each other.  If you want to decrease operating costs know that you still will have to conduct changeovers and shutdown for cleaning, etc.  Quantifying these impacts will help you understand the real room for improvement that you have.

Step 4 – Create your baseline.  If you don’t have one, you need one.  If you have one, confirm it.

Step 5 – Set a realistic, time-based goal.  Don’t shoot for the moon on your first try.  Set something modest and make sure you have enough time to accomplish it.

Step 6 – Celebrate your wins.  Learn from your losses.  Too often we are focused on the bad.  Take some time to recognize when you and the team have done well.  Don’t punish failure, rather learn from it and publish the results or talk about them in a team meeting.  Don’t hide from failure either.  People should know if they didn’t hit the mark and how to do better next time.

Step 7 – Repeat.  This is a process.  Don’t rest, but don’t change things up so much that you don’t have time to make significant strides.  Try to have fun and make sure you are winning more than you are losing.

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When Teams Become Dangerous

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Teamwork.  Often we have the need and desire to improve team relationships.  We have been told that we need to work well with teams.  We, as managers, must promote a team environment.  Leadership training focuses on working as a team.  If teams are so great, and we have teams everywhere (how many “teams” are you a member of?) then why do we still have issues creeping up on us?  Why do we still have to play politics?

Remember the saying, “There is no ‘I’ in team.”  That concept is flawed because it comes from an idealistic premise that human beings can let go of their individuality.  Well, that is a difficult thing to accomplish.  In today’s culture we are celebrating individuality and simultaneously asking our teams to let it go.  

We have created turf wars in modern business.  We have pushed ownership to the point of possessiveness.  We sit in meetings and argue over jobs.  We are back on the playground, staking claim on the jungle gym.  We fight for resources, squabble over spending, and plot plans for retribution.  Welcome to teamwork.

Some might argue that this is not teamwork, but I say it is.  It is teamwork as we have defined it over the years.  It is the team member as conditioned by his circumstances.  Most people like to be part of a team, to belong to something.  The question is what are the teams to which they belong?

It is difficult to change the way we think.  It takes time, patience and coaching.  It is part of the evolution of each of us as we mature and grow.  But what I am proposing is not a change in thinking, but a change in definition of the boundaries.  What should make a team and how do we create incentives that are not contrary to that definition?

The team should be defined as “the smallest group possible whose goals do not conflict with the goals of any other group.”  The key to this definition is the set of goals.  This is all about creating the right KPIs.  Coupling personal objectives with team objectives is the only way to create a win-win mentality.

Start from the top down when setting metrics and goals.  Personal goals should correspond to team goals.  The only personal goals that are outside of those team goals would be development goals for the individual (i.e. complete supervisor conflict management training before October 2nd).  If you can’t create a KPI for a group that doesn’t conflict with the KPI of a peer group, you need to think more critically or simply hold to the higher-level KPI.  Share successes of the team with the whole organization whenever possible.  This will help to build camaraderie and will motivate teams to help one another on achieving their collective goals.

Remember, a few good metrics is better than a huge list.  I have seen companies with an entire matrix of Red/Yellow/Green scorecards that people simply can’t keep up with.  Keep your team focused and good things will happen.  Manage the extremes by exception and create solid game plans with your teams to see step change improvements.

When Teams Become Dangerous

hawksTeamwork.  Often we have the need and desire to improve team relationships.  We have been told that we need to work well with teams.  We, as managers, must promote a team environment.  Leadership training focuses on working as a team.  If teams are so great, and we have teams everywhere (how many “teams” are you a member of?) then why do we still have issues creeping up on us?  Why do we still have to play politics?

There is no “I” in “team”: yeah, right.
In today’s culture we are celebrating individuality and simultaneously asking our teams to let it go.  I don’t think we will ever be able to suppress the individual to a point that teamwork will be natural.  People often work in teams because it benefits the individual.  This has been showcased in modern Reality TV where people will work in teams until it is time to ‘win’.  Additionally, this is also demonstrated in game theory analysis.  The concept is flawed because it comes from an idealistic premise that human beings can let go of their individuality. 

Emotional Teams
Overall, mankind is selfish unless we are touched emotionally by something.  People work very well in teams when there is a crisis.  We all tend to fall into an order of sorts and try to contribute in the best way we can.   However, these are short-lived teams that band together when the time calls for action and then disperse quickly when the job is done. Teamwork comes easy when we believe in something greater than ourselves.  Volunteer groups, emergency response teams, and first responders work together very well during the time they are needed but will resort to selfish measures when the emotions no longer dictate the behavior.  But it is hard to convince an employee that making Product A the most efficiently with the best quality is a noble cause.  Most people are not emotionally tied to their jobs.

The Opposition Within
When we create teams we often create competition: shift rivalries, departmental performance.  But competition is good, right?  Have you ever been in a meeting where two department managers are arguing about who will pay for something?  There is an agreement (stated or implied) that a service or good is needed but it is being argued about who’s budget will take the hit. As managers we should know that if one of us is going to buy something that it is for the betterment of the organization.  So who cares who pays? This is a common example of teamwork gone awry.  Are we not measured on how well we manage our budget?  This is an individual goal that trumps the business need.  It is a selfish endeavor to manage your budget over doing what is right for the company.  We have created turf wars in modern business.  We have pushed ownership to the point of possessiveness.  We sit in meetings and argue over jobs.  We are back on the playground, staking claim on the jungle gym. Some might argue that this is not teamwork, but I say it is.  It is teamwork as we have defined it over the years. 

Redefining Teams
The team should be defined as “the smallest group possible whose goals do not conflict with the goals of any other group.”  The key to this definition is the set of goals.  This is all about creating the right KPIs.  Coupling personal objectives with team objectives is the only way to create a win-win mentality.  This doesn’t mean that the other KPIs shouldn’t be measured.  They should, they are topographical maps of the company.  They show the peaks and valleys and allow the team to work together to achieve a common goal. 

Sustaining Gains

  1. Start from the top down when setting metrics and goals. 
  2. Personal goals should correspond to team goals.  The only personal goals that are outside of those team goals would be development goals for the individual (i.e. implement supervisor conflict management training before October 2nd). 
  3. If you can’t create a KPI for a group that doesn’t conflict with the KPI of a peer group, you need to think more critically or simply hold to the higher-level KPI. 
  4. Share successes of the team with the whole organization whenever possible.  This will help to build camaraderie and will motivate teams to help one another on achieving their collective goals. 
  5. Flex your KPIs to shift your business needs and create renewed focus in primary improvement areas. 
  6. Solicit the feedback of everyone to see where people can affect the KPI and if it is reasonable to set as a goal.

Remember, a few good metrics is better than a huge list.  I have seen companies with an entire matrix of Red/Yellow/Green scorecards that people simply can’t keep up with.  Keep your team focused and good things will happen.  Manage the extremes by exception and great solid game plans with your teams to see step change improvements.

How have you seen teams become destructive?

What are you doing to ensure that your teams are collaborative and not competative?