Long ago, a wise and profound person coined the phrase “you can’t manage what you DON’T measure.” Although I suspect I heard it even before I studied work measurement at Georgia Tech, I think about this simple principle now more than ever before.
For many operations managers, recessionary challenges often involved balancing the competing forces of growth against a lean supply of labor. As economic conditions took a dive during the past four years, however, the challenge quickly turned to one of managing costs downward against shrinking volumes. Too many companies paid a painful price for not being prepared with the capability to meet this challenge.
My partner, Bruce Strahan, contends that as we look closely at why an operation is being run with too many people and too much inventory, we will find two common causes:
If this describes any part of your organization, where should you begin?
Developing Managers of People
Without properly trained mangers, having good data is irrelevant… great data in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand or appreciate it is either dangerous or a waste of effort. Conversely, a manager enlightened in the basics of quantitative management will begin working to overcome gaps in data availability.
Training your front line supervisors and managers on the basics of quantitative techniques doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. But it should include fundamental training and ongoing exposure to topics on how to measure and interpret results, and, just as importantly, how to coach improvement.
Unless you have a plan to address this deficiency, then you probably shouldn’t spend any more money and time gathering data. At best, that investment will have a short-lived benefit. At its worst, it will frustrate higher-level managers who see the data, but no signs of improvement.
Defining the Right Performance Data
This is one of the toughest parts of the problem, and of course is unique for each environment. Bruce offers these broad guidelines as starters:
It’s true that you can’t manage what you DON’T measure. But it goes deeper than that. An effective performance management program involves the systematic means for measurement, setting targets and reporting results. But, it will only be effective over the long term if you have developed the measurements around your process and with your people – associates, supervisors, managers.
As of September 8, 2020, Crimson & Co (formerly The Progress Group/TPG) has rebranded as Argon & Co following the successful merger with Argon Consulting in April 2018.