Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Archive for May 2009

What Gets Measured, Gets Done

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Einstein said: Only measure what is truly important. However, not all that is truly important is measurable. Some anonymous Einstein came up with a profound part two: But remember, not all that is measured is truly important.

How do you know if you’re winning or losing if you don’t keep score? People play better when there is a scoreboard, but what makes an effective metric? The ideal is for metrics to serve as a real-time indicator of how things are going, at an actionable level so those who are accountable can impact performance and improve real-time when needed.

The scoreboard is the performance management system, updated real-time so people can adjust their game plan in time to make a difference in the game.

People are assessed on how much they did or didn’t deliver on their accountabilities. Therefore, it is critical to establish objective, quantifiable ways to determine level of contribution toward goal attainment.

When people are told they must improve ROA and other lag indicators, they are understandably frustrated. Who among us can easily recognize the direct impact of our work on the bottom line or on market share?

Need Both

Connection between lead and lag goals and metrics is critical. Focusing on lead alone may give you good information on short-term performance. But how can you determine whether organizational goals are being met? And, focusing only on lag goals and metrics is not a good call to action for the first level, provides no indication of current status, and there are no early indicators that corrective action must be taken.

(For background on the work-in-process Flawless Execution project, go to the FE Home Page. For more information on performance management go to Flawless Execution Systems page)


A Roadmap to Alignment

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A Roadmap to Alignment

Alignment is a bit of a baby topic right now, but it’s critical and will be added to soon and often. As the sub-title of In Pursuit of Excellence is “Engagement > Alignment > Execution > Results” I am maintaining a Roadmap for each of the first three topics, posted under “Pages” at the top right of the Home Page.

Alignment, pet term “being on the same page”, comes in many shapes and sizes, the most critical being alignment…

  • Between the company’s goals and values and your own;
  • Of your position’s accountabilities to the company’s top strategies; and
  • Of your job and career to your personal strengths and motivators.

In A Roadmap to Alignment  are thumbnails for posts related to strategy and alignment. Scope of “strategy” includes vision, mission, guiding principles and how these are communicated and acted upon. Both personal alignment and business alignment are examined, per the three bullets above. NOT in scope is how to develop a plan. I’ll assume that your company already has a plan or you wouldn’t be here browsing around, you’d be on the street corner looking for spare change.

Written by Craig

May 8, 2009 at 10:07 am

What the Heck is an “Integrated System of HRD”?

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This post briefly describes the elements of a Human Resource Development (HRD) system (see diagram), and how the elements are integrated in an ideal system.

People flow effortlessly without friction through an integrated human resource development system, just like product and work flows through any production process. “Integrated system” simply means that all the processes and practices of the HRD system shown below cannot be stand-alone.

The critical input to the HRD system is the company’s strategy, and the most important element that aligns all the HRD processes to strategy is the job write-up, or position specification.

 HRD Diagram


 Integrated HRD Starts With Alignment, the Position Spec is the Enabler

What is the company’s strategy and what are the key challenges the company faces? How does each function and its positions support the strategy and help to address the challenges? The job write-up is the justification for a position’s existence. The write-up must clearly connect the position to strategy, and describe how the position helps support the strategy and achieve goals.

Strategy is cascaded down through the company, as goals are set with increasing levels of specificity. Accountability is established until each function and each position is clearly aligned with the top and is directly responsible for a portion of the strategy.

Promotions, hiring and placement decisions are driven by the position spec. The position spec serves as the basis for recruiting and interviewing, and eventually placing a person into a vacant position. If the company knows what positions will come vacant through known attrition (retirements, promotions, backfills). The write-up for the position being vacated is the list of qualifications the successor will need (succession management).

People are groomed for advancement ahead of the need and are ready to move up when the need arises, minimizing the impact of attrition. The performance management process is the planning and monitoring tool for development of employees, and provides essential input to the training and development function. Input from performance management plans is used to determine the curriculum for meeting the developmental needs of individuals and the position needs of the company.

For background on the work-in-process Flawless Execution project, go to the FE Home Page. For more information on this topic go to the Flawless Execution Systems page.

About Assessments (Never Say “Audit”!)

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Auditors had a bulls-eye on our backs when out on the floor conducting an audit. In a scene straight out of Gunfight at the OK Corral, our band of auditors would hit the outskirts of town, loaded clipboards at our sides. Nothing but tumbleweeds to be seen, except for the occasional store keeper spotted peering from behind a boarded window.

Needs Better PR. “Audit” has a bad rep. Ask about anyone what comes to mind when they hear “audit” and chances are they will break out in a sweat and start shaking uncontrollably. Audit = IRS (or, shudder, corporate or a customer nosing around) = bad stuff.

ISO terminology is confrontational. Auditors find nonconformances, for which corrective action must be taken. There are friendlier terms out there-find words that fit.

Proactively Identify Improvements. An assessment (OK, “audit”) is simply a gap analysis between:

  • Desired results and current results;
  • Documented procedures and policies, and current practices;
  • Guidelines of a quality standard like ISO9001, and the company’s management system

In other words, a means to figure out where you’re not getting the results you’re supposed to be getting. As such, an assessment is the means to identify areas for improvement, NOT areas of “nonconformance”.

The Pulse of the Management System. Any assessor will tell you the quickest way to determine the overall health of a management system is to take a close look at the internal assessment and corrective action processes. Timely due diligence, or going through the motions? Good assessors can spot a good system a mile away: show me the records, including past internal assessments.

Awareness and Education Value.

Assessors are granted a chance to take an up-close look at the area they are assigned to assess. Assessors are required by ISO to be unattached to the area they are assessing to ensure objectivity. Meaning, fresh eyes on the same old processes and practices. And those eyes are learning a LOT.

New Perspective. Assessments are conducted by an impartial person with no ties to the areas being assessed to ensure objectivity and minimize the “country club” effect. It’s tough to ding your friends and coworkers. A fresh, outsider perspective often identifies things that someone closer to the action may overlook, or just take for granted and not question or examine further.

For background on the work-in-process Flawless Execution project, go to the FE Home Page. For more information on this topic go to the Flawless Execution Systems page.

Written by Craig

May 6, 2009 at 2:47 pm

What’s Your Alignment Quotient?

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We are making a huge, dangerous assumption if we think that even a third of our people truly understand half of leadership’s strategic musings. Actually, can you be sure the individuals on the leadership team interpret your strategy the same way? If not, how can they execute?

Why is it so many mission statements never come down off the wall? Because they’re written in a foreign language. Same with strategy.

“An operational definition puts communicable meaning into a concept. An operational definition is one that people can do business with. An operational definition of safe, round, reliable, or any other characteristics must be communicable, with the same meaning to vendors, purchasers and the production workers. Same meaning, yesterday and today.” (W Edwards Deming)

Look inside and answer these questions with absolute honesty. Better yet, if your leadership team can openly discuss these kind of things, come to a group conclusion. The absolute ideal…have an objective outsider with assessment experience do an assessment of the front line troops. Then, listen and take action.

1. How widely understood is our company’s mission and / or vision and top strategy among our employees?

2. Do we have a published set of values or beliefs? How widely known are they? Do they make a difference?

3. What are the company’s macro metrics that are most communicated to the most people? How well are these macro metrics connected to the company’s top strategy? Can you easily tell which metric assesses which strategic element?

4. Do areas or departments have their own clear objectives that are consistent with / in support of the company’s mission / vision / strategy? How clear is the connection to top strategy?

5. Are local objectives measured? Can people impact their department’s metrics in their daily work? Are status updates provided real-time and areas of concern acted upon?

6. Do people know what is important about the job they do, and how they can move the numbers – how they really do make a difference?

Do any of your responses point toward an opportunity for improvement? So what are you doing just sitting there?

Written by Craig

May 6, 2009 at 2:44 pm

DANGER: Competency-based Development

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Exploring the wonderful world of competency-based employee development, the model of preference in the business world. Possibly scarier yet…this is how our education system thinks and operates too.

This is a segue into strengths-based leadership–be looking for more.

strength1  Each position normally has a list of competencies–skills needed to perform the job. Every individual has a distribution of how well they demonstrate these competencies.  The performance appraisal process will assess how well a person models the competencies of their position. Common levels: Exceeds, Acceptable, Needs Improvement.


 As it is important to be able to perform the job to which a person is assigned, focus is typically on beefing up any areas where a person “Needs Improvement”. Target: an “Acceptable Level of Competency”. With all that attention devoted to fixing what’s broken, what happens to those competencies where a person “Exceeds Expectations”?  strength2


strength3  Use-it-or-lose-it applies here. While the competencies needing to be improved are being tended to, the person’s unique strengths and talents are slipping. Strengths are strengths for good reason. A person’s strengths are normally a manifestation of their core drivers or motivators. These skills can lead a person to high engagement when they have a chance to fully use them on the job.


In the world of health care, what does “flatline” mean? (HINT: it ain’t good!)  strength4

Moral of the story…Let the Rabbits Run.

 (apologies for any funky layout issues…working on it, but not one of my “strengths”….definitely “needs improvement”.)

Roadmap to Management System Excellence

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As there have been several views of the various posts on management system effectiveness, I wanted to provide you with a front page roadmap to the various management system topics covered.

The Roadmap will be updated when new posts are made.

Written by Craig

May 4, 2009 at 5:36 pm