Tracking Progress and Measuring Success of a Business Change
Developed from the ProThink Learning Course Leading Change to Accelerate Business Performance
Measurement that Enables Real Change
In order to determine whether a change initiative is effective, leaders need a way to keep score. This not only provides a metric to measure impact and whether your initiatives are on the right track, but proper scorekeeping will let leaders know when they’re on the wrong track before it’s too late.
Where Measurements Are Failing
Too many managers are still watching P&Ls or growth curves, which don’t necessarily give them good indications of where their systems are breaking down, where productivity is lagging. When the bottom-line numbers finally come in and they are disheartening, managers don’t have answers as to why it all happened.
Many leaders’ responses to this will be to centralize across the board, to set down regulations, and to try to micromanage everything from the top. While this may be the instinct of a manager, we know that total control is not an effective way to get employees onboard.
Four Steps to Measure Your Success
Instead of focusing solely on results, install metrics in your change project to quantify the processes along the way. This way, you can monitor every stage of the change.
1. Define Change Focus
Identify the two or three most important business goals, outcomes, or objectives of the change initiative. A simple yet important question to ask is “How many outcomes can we realistically complete?” The first task is to determine the few critical business results you hope will be impacted by the change initiative.
You might focus on things like reducing costs, improving the effectiveness of operations, or complying with industry regulations.
While you may want to change everything, most organizations are successful at impacting only a few. If you try to change and measure too much, it will feel like you’re focusing on nothing. Determine the few most important goals to measure so you can focus on achieving them.
2. Establish Change Measures
Quantifying change is vital to tracking success, especially in areas that aren’t intrinsically associated with numbers and already being monitored.
For leaders of change, the most useful measures fall into three categories:
1. Business outcome measures:
Business outcome measures are straightforward and typically already being tracked because they are the most easily measured and are associated with results. When compiling data with the inputs, however, leaders can track which parts of the process are effective and ineffective.
2. Change impact measures:
· Employee engagement: Enabling employees to own the changes and to commit to making change happen
· Adoption: How quickly employees adopt the new way of working and new behaviors
· Utilization: How many employees are using the new system or process to do their jobs
· Proficiency: How skilled employees are at the new process, tool, or system
Change impact measures aren’t tracked as often and require more work by the change team to determine exactly what makes sense to measure.
3. Lead and lag measures:
· Lag: A historical measure that helps change teams know if they hit the target
· Lead: A predictive measure that helps leaders know they are making progress toward the change outcome
A lag measure tells you if you’ve achieved the goal. While lag indicators are important for company performance, they are typically too far removed from the behavior change to help people make a connection between how they must change and how they will be measured. A lead measure tells you if you are likely to achieve the goal. Team members can’t change a lag measure, but a lead measure is usually within their control.
3. Track Progress
Establishing change measures gets you raw data, but tracking changes interprets that information so it can be shared with the team. Quantified progress tells employees where they’re at based on the established goals and what they can do to influence the score. For many, the excitement of winning can help them balance the pain of change.
Change leaders should focus on how to track the essential measures so when progress is presented, the scorecard is simple, compelling, and clearly shows employees how they’re doing. The average person can’t interpret a jumble of numbers, so it’s the job of a leader to synthesize accurate information that tells people the whole story at a glance.
4. Create Accountability
The final question for leaders in measuring change is “How and when will the team hold each other accountable for results?”
A 2020 chief strategy officer study found that 46% of the organizations surveyed did not have formal systems to execute their strategy, and of these, 73% reported average to below-average performance of their strategies. In comparison, of the 54% that had a formal execution system, 70% outperformed their peer group.
Successful change efforts have a two-part change measurement system. The first part includes the measures and the scorecard (discussed previously). The second part of the system includes reviewing progress, planning actions to course correct, and regularly holding the change team accountable for results.
Create a “cadence of accountability” by determining the following:
· Frequency of the meeting (we recommend weekly)
· Type of meeting (face-to-face or virtual)
· Meeting attendees
· Length of the meeting (short fifteen-minute scorecard meeting or part of the regular change team meeting)
· Consequences (positive and negative)
· Individual commitments for the coming week
During these meetings, dedicate time to refocus employees on the goals, identify which areas need more attention, and celebrate the areas where they’re succeeding. Publicly recognizing those who are doing well creates a culture of positive reinforcement. People are more likely to continue performing well if they are recognized for their efforts, and they’re more likely to perform better if they feel harder work would be appreciated.
Time and frequency of the meetings will vary depending on your business’s needs. It may be difficult to coordinate frequent meetings if they involve many people with busy schedules, but the regularity is what’s most important. Also, be wary of making these meetings too long or too frequent; you don’t want to distract employees from their work or introduce a new chore to dread.
Why We Measure
Leaders can be so enthusiastic about making big moves that they forget about the details; don’t miss the trees for the forest. It is vital to document the processes surrounding a change project to understand why it works when it works and what to tweak when it doesn’t.
Keeping score also helps motivate employees to work harder. People are naturally competitive. Knowing that the work they’re doing is allowing them to outperform business competitors or their own numbers from last year reminds them why their work matters.