You Need to Collect Metrics. Here are Two Approaches.

Metrics are essential to successful organization management. A metric is a standard measure that in and of itself gives meaning to a condition. It represents a measurement taken of a certain issue, topic, process or initiative. Certain criteria must be met to make metrics meaningful.

Here's the TenStep guest blog post "You Need to Collect Metrics. Here are Two Approaches":

There are two approaches for organizations looking to start collecting metrics. One is a formal, structured approach and one is an unstructured “let’s just do it” approach.

The Structured Approach

One way to get a metrics program started is to get a set of key stakeholders together and go through a planning exercise. This takes some discipline and forward thinking. The overall steps would include:

  • Identify criteria for success. First you need to define what success means to your organization. You would normally look at your business plan, strategy, vision, departmental objectives, etc.
  • Assign potential metrics. Identify potential metrics for each of your criteria that provide an indication of whether you are achieving success. This is a brainstorming exercise so that you identify as many potential metrics as possible.
  • Look for a balance. The potential list of metrics should be placed into categories to make sure that they provide a balanced view of the organization. For instance, look for metrics that provide information in the areas such as cost, project success, quality, productivity, client satisfaction, business value, safety, etc.
  • Prioritize the balanced list of metrics. Depending on how many metrics you have identified, prioritize the list to include only those that have the least cost to collect and provide the most value to the organization. You usually want to end up with 5-8 metrics.
  • Set targets. The raw metric may be of some interest, but the measure of success comes from comparing your actual results against a predefined target.
  • Collect and analyze the information. Now the hard part - set up the processes to collect the metrics and analyze them on an ongoing basis.

The Unstructured Approach

There is another approach that can work. The basic philosophy is “just collect something, even if it’s wrong.” In this approach, some key people in the organization get together and look for information that can be easily captured that provide some indication of success in some areas. Then you start to collect and analyze. After you collect the data over time, you get a sense for whether the metrics are providing value and whether you need to find more or different ones. This approach gets you into the habit of collecting and analyzing metrics first and allows you to improve your metrics over time.

Summary

Deciding to start collecting metrics is a great first step, but now you must decide how to get started on the work. Many organizations like a deliberate and thoughtful process to determine the metrics program. This can help you be more successful the first time.

The problem is that sometimes you don't get past the planning to actually collect and analyze the data. Many organizations are not sure what information they need, so they just start to collect and analyze what is available. They then improve the collection and analysis over time. For many organizations it is better to develop good habits than to try to get things perfect the first time.

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