Putting measurement at the heart of continuous improvement

Measuring ProgressMeasurement is at the heart of continuous improvement

Measurement is at the heart of continuous improvement, and whilst many organisations measure many things, world class organisations measure the right things, and they measure them using well established principles of effective charting. This requires discipline, and it is often the lack of this discipline which results in teams failing to improve their performance. So, what are the principles, and why are they important.

Principle 1: Identify an effective Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

We measure to improve, so the indicator should either be linked to one of the team’s improvement objectives, or to a problem that needs solving. Don’t measure something just because you can, or because you’ve been measuring it for years. Also, if you’re not going to take action on what the indicator is telling you then you are wasting your time. Make the indicator as simple as possible so that the data is easy and quick to obtain; and the whole team can understand and engage with it.

Principle 2: Set a realistic goal

Ensure the rate of improvementis realistic. For this you need to know 3 things; the current performance level, the performance level you’re aiming at (the goal), and the date you want to achieve the goal. Often a goal is set either without a target date (this is akin to a dream) or without taking into account the level you are starting from. Make sure the team agree the goal is both challenging and achievable. Easy goals are ignored, and impossible goals demotivate the team. Get the goals agreed with line management to ensure they are well aligned to the organisation’s goals.

Principle 3: Balance your Scorecard

Each indicator may only be assigned to one of the categories of Quality, Speed, Cost, Safety and People. Identify the main reason for choosing the indicator to select the right category and ensure that your scorecard is balanced by having at least one indicator in each category. We want the team to improve across all categories simultaneously, not focus on one at the expense of all the others.

Principle 4: Monitor Progress

It is important to know how you are performing, and how far you’ve still got to go to reach your goal. Use a monthly chart with a target line to monitor progress towards your goal. The chart will show you what effect your improvement efforts are having in the long term.

Principle 5: Control the Process

You must make frequent, regular measurements to understand the process and identify when problems are occurring. Use a daily or weekly chart with a target line to identify these opportunities. In addition, a trigger line can be used to control the number of problem-solving interventions by the team.

Principle 6: Use Formal Problem Solving to drive improvement

Long term improvement is achieved through problem solving. Use simple rules to determine when and how, to solve problems. Formal problem-solving techniques are simple but require frequent practice to produce consistent results. The key is to identify the root cause of the problem and implement specific actions to prevent reoccurrence. Success will be shown on the monthly chart as your performance improves towards your target and ultimately your goal.

When you find the right things to measure and monitor progress regularly, it comes easy to identify and remove issues before they become major problems. Contact us for practical help with your measures.

Adam Jones