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Measurement & Analysis
Measurement and Analysis
A vital and strategic component of organizational performance improvement and management is the shrewd use of data and information, data to evaluate the actual effects of improvement trials or pilots, data to assure that implemented effective improvements sustain their effect, and data and information to assure the kind of operational transparency and feedback now known to be essential for sustained high performance. Performance management cannot occur without good performance measurement.
However, busy management, supervisors, and workers can only handle a limited amount of data without being overwhelmed. The important data get lost in the less important when too much data are generated. Furthermore, an imbalance in data components leads to imbalanced management as Robert Kaplan points out in his book, The Balanced Scorecard. Data generation takes organizational resources and attention, not to mention its analysis and presentation.
Therefore, data for performance must, (besides being accurate and timely), be efficient, balanced and relevant to assure effective performance management. This is not an easy task.
The data must generally be analyzed, synthesized, and preferably visualized before being understood widely and easily.
We, in The BroadBaker Group think of data (numbers) simply as the beginning of an information chain of added value, ending in insight or understanding and linked action.
Adding value to each phase of the chain takes intellectual effort, skill and domain knowledge. If data can be converted to a meaningful graphic (pattern) it becomes information much more easily grasped. But that conversion to pattern information is insufficient. The pattern information must be given meaning, usually through recognizing what the pattern or graph is “saying.” That, in turn, becomes knowledge; it usually takes historical and/or professional/technical knowledge to do that. Recognition is involved. Knowing what the graph, image or description is saying, or giving it a name, is still insufficient. We must give meaning to the knowledge, understand the implications of the information we have learned in order to act properly. Gaining this insight for action is the highest purpose of data.
There are, of course, many tools available to assist in carrying out these steps. Our firm can assist or train in the use of these tools and we have in our alliance others who bring additional, even more specialized, data management and analytical capability, especially able to evaluate large databases. We can help our clients perceive the value (or lack thereof) in the data, and draw inferences and know the level of certainty (or uncertainty) of those inferences.
However, managing only one information chain (e.g., financial data) is grossly insufficient. Since the data must be broadly balanced to govern or manage well, many such chains must be managed, reflecting value streams, customer impact, and key operational functions. Errors can be introduced at many points. Wrong data, wrong conclusions; wrong analysis or transcription, wrong conclusions; wrong knowledge (or none), wrong conclusion; wrong inference, wrong insight, wrong action. Deadly. And the whole thing must be done efficiently.
Furthermore, good data enables more accurate and informed dynamic modeling if the client desires, greatly leveraging both the investment in the performance data system and in dynamic modeling.
Results-Based Metrics and Data Visualization (Outcome-based Measurements or "Outcomes-Based Evaluation" (OBE))
Purpose is vital for effective organizational high performance. Equally important is measuring the organization's accomplishment of that purpose! The reward is knowing that you did it, not the busy-ness of means. This is more easily said than done, especially when the purpose seems intangible. Nevertheless, it can be done and we show how. Once done, the effects of good results-based measures are transformational, focusing, aligning, and energizing.
Policy Governance organizations (should) know the importance of ends metrics, since the policy monitoring system requires the monitoring and production of evidence (data) that ends are being accomplished. But many human services organizations, and especially ministries, have not tackled the development of measures that assess the success of their efforts in producing the results they exist for! They are daunted by the challenge, and may even feel an attempt to measure results is somehow unspiritual, and certainly subjective, which they believe nullifies its value. This latter attitude is the opposite from the truth. Good results metrics (outcome-based measures) are transformational, improving both strategy and the capacity to improve the processes creating the organizational outputs.
Couple good metrics with their effective pattern display or visualization, which engages the human capacity for visual conceptualization (see the discussion above), and the power to transform as well as tell an effective story is unleashed.
We have a deep and extensive background in measurement and analysis, (including graduate training in the inferential sciences), in addition to our experience with assisting executive management, especially in Policy Governance organizations, in thinking through the creation of results metrics that address the organizational ends policies. We are convinced that executive management must understand results-based metrics.
There is a close operational link between outcomes measurement, strategic thinking, and the ability to continuously improve. They work together and are interdependent. If an organization focuses on results metrics, it will also tend to drive toward or focus the organization on strategy in an insightful way while also leading the organization toward process improvement and, thus, effectiveness and efficiency. This enablement to assess both effectiveness and efficiency is sometimes termed outcomes-based evaluation (OBE) and has been around for at least 30 years in various forms.
Once the organization has the results metrics developed and in-hand, the next step is devising the presentation or display of the data to the board and to outside constituency (and for its own improved analysis) in a way that powerfully tells the story (truthfully we may add). However, that is not all. We believe in the power of thoughtful visual display of data for, not only effectively telling the story, but improving analytical comprehension. humans quickly grasp multidimensional display or mapping of data, and complex relationships can be conveyed visually. We train and consult in optimizing the visual display of such data in order to improve analytical thinking and to convey the story most effectively.
Analytically speaking, outcome or results metrics lead the organization to continuously assess the assumptions and knowledge connecting the outputs or products with the results, and similarly, the connection between processes and the the creation of effective products or outputs. Thus, such a ministry or NPO becomes increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable regarding its strategy.
We can assist in thinking through the structure of the data system and work with the client to optimize the data system for effective and high performance management. we have deep and extensive background in measurement and analysis in addition to understanding the power of results or outcome metrics and measurement that are key to to improving both strategy and processes.