The value of good data in assessing our performance

Image from bernsteincrisismanagement.comAt the beginning of any project or strategy, we take time to set our goals and performance measures. The performance measures are important as they will reveal whether we are successful at delivering on our goals or not. When setting our performance measures, I suggest you adopt observable outcomes, those are things which are apparent in outcomes or behaviours rather than perceptions and beliefs. So for example, if you are setting performance measures to evaluate the value of a new strategy you would look to gathering data on specific outcomes, for example, increased productivity, quality or profitability. These outcomes are often measured against previous years data, and are easy to obtain. Gathering data on behaviors is a little more difficult, unless you have in place specific technologies to track buyer, employee or customer behaviour. The data can be gathered, but it takes more time and forethought to execute well. I do believe there is great value in this information and at least one of your performance measures should be based on behavioural data. What your customers, buyers, team or employees have done or can be observed doing. To gather this data you may need audits, snapshots of activity or reviews. One of the strengths of these methods of data gathering is removing the element of self interest, that skewers the final results.

Project and strategy leaders have a strong desire to look good, but this is a double edged sword. We can all be tempted to include in our data gathering, feedback that supports our own position. However, this self interested data will look out of place in the overall results if it glosses over apparent weaknesses. So stay professional and resist the temptation to gloss over the project weaknesses. If you try to skewer results it will be apparent to your audience and your reputation will be diminished.

It is from the weaknesses and less successful elements of the project that we learn and grow. One essential element in this high level activity of project or strategy evaluation is leading with a culture of collaboration and trust, encouraging open and honest conversation and constructive feedback. To do this have the project team look to the statistical data, and the behavioural data. As they have been closest to the project, they will provide invaluable insights into what has worked well, and what has not supported the project or strategy. You can then analyse this data and provide a plan for further improvements over the coming months. Presenting both the successes and weaknesses of your project or strategy together with a plan for improvement indicates a high level of professionalism and accountability.

Over the coming weeks, the 2011 data will start to flow in your direction, and as we move towards the end of the financial year, profitability will become a hot topic in many businesses and organisations. Due to your forethought, and prepared performance measures you will have a range of data to evaluate your project/strategy or team performance, and now is the time to gather that data together to build a credible evaluation. The next stage is to think carefully how to present your data to your stakeholders. As you do this, consider your audience and your purpose and ensure your presentation aligns with your organisational goals. In this way your data will be easy to understand, and your suggestions for further development more likely to be approved. Best of luck for the reporting season.

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