The APQC Blog

Don’t Let Process Measurement Sink You

Don’t Let Process Measurement Sink You

As we discussed before, data is the proverbial life blood of most organizations. It’s how we understand performance, identify opportunities for improvement or growth, and make objective strategic decisions. But good data requires asking the right questions and measuring the right things—or in other words a good measurement foundation.  
Measurement can be daunting to say the least. 

Process & Performance Management Measurement Core Struggles

According to our annual survey organizations continue to struggle with three core measurement themes: 

  1. Measures’ fit for purpose. Just because we measure it doesn’t mean it will provide the insights needed by our decision makers. And often organizations will cling to the measures they’ve tracked for years rather than refreshing their measures through periodic reviews to determine fit and actionability. 
  2. Consistency across the organization. Organizations often suffer from either siloed data or rampant variants because each decision maker has unique data requirements. This includes different measures used for the same processes or defining measures differently, including their normalization (e.g., cycle time in days versus hours). This makes it difficult to get an overall picture of performance or manage processes across product lines or regions.
  3. Focus on lagging measures. Most organizations do not have a well-balanced set of measures that include established control points. Instead, organizations rely on lagging measures (e.g., cycle time or on-time delivery) that measure the end-result of a process. Which leads to reactive or too little, too late problem solving.

Process & Performance Management Measurement Systematic Issues Need Addressing 

Though these three themes are persistent year-on-year, they are rooted in systematic issues such as:  

  1. Lack of engagement with end-users. Engagement with the team or department responsible for the work ensures that measures are fit for purpose. Measures should accurately reflect the work conducted and goals of the business. Hence the teams and departments that execute the work have the best perspectives on what measure reflect or capture value. This also helps create buy-in on the measures. Because without buy-in its harder to engage in data-driven improvements and in the worst-case employees might game the measures. 
  2. Poor alignment between strategic and process measures. Process and strategy should be in a virtuous partnership—where strategy guides process efforts and process measures feed into strategic planning. Without understanding how the process links to organizational goals, it’s difficult to ensure measures are not only fit for purpose but are structured so measures can roll up or aggregate into organizational KPIs. 
  3. Lack of measures governance. Without ownership, selection criteria, or oversight for managing process measures organizations can struggle with challenges in measure consistency, fit, and alignment. Enterprise-wide governance help to drive standardization across business silos for measurement and other core process activities.

Though the challenges around a solid measurement foundation are complicated, there are key methods that organizations can use to address them. Often the solutions to these complicated challenges revolve around people, particularly engagement and governance structures. For example, best practice organizations use a mix of selection criteria and working sessions to help surface the best fit measures. They also tend to leverage process councils or a process center of excellence to help provide strategic alignment and oversight across the portfolio of processes and their related measures. 

For additional information on this topic check out: 

For more process and performance management research and insights, follow me on Twitter at @hlykehogland or connect with me on LinkedIn.