A “Side-ways” Look at Measurement and Change Management

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Ever notice, that in spite of all the energy and “diligence” we put into selecting the right measures or metrics for business today, and how much measurement detail we wire into our Change Planning, we can still question these measures when change stumbles mid-stream or we find ourselves rationalizing (again) the outcomes upon project completion?  Measurement is certainly one of the facets of change management that can become over-engineered and we can get lost in the complexity we create.

Take for example, the oft cited disappointment with the “failure rate of change”–our OWN scorecard! It is estimated to be as high as 70% in studies by researchers at Harvard and McKinsey.  Just how badly should we feel?  Of course, we are motivated to succeed and are even drawn to the role of Change Leader to take on challenges from which many others would run.  That said, in a classic measurement mind-set error, we are beating ourselves up for this “high” and “unacceptable” failure rate.  Really?…what if the base-rate for failure is 100% and the best we can hope to achieve—the summit (as an average across initiatives and all companies) is 60% failure…now THAT changes your perspective…does it not?  If you only fail 2 of every 10 times, you’d be a genius!

The most frequent Change Measurement error I find, in spite of great diligence placed on defining metrics in many Change Teams, involves the arbitrary nature of the measures chosen.  Why, for example, were you asked to report monthly or define your project milestones relative to the calendar or company’s fiscal year?  Is this the natural cycle of change and the most meaningful definition of milestones and achievement for the transformation you’re leading—I doubt it.

When I was a child, we measured my height on the first day of the new school year, and marked my progress on the door frame to my bedroom.  Now…what if my “growth spurt” occurred during the months of June – October, is any conclusion about which school year included the most growth either accurate or representative?…No.

Take a look at the measures you’ve wired into your Change Initiative?…Do any of those seem to be a bit arbitrary—or moored to the wrong anchor for creating meaning and accurately representing change progress?  Consider, for example:

  • If you are attempting to influence your customer’s business, are your measures defined by the natural cycle of their outcomes…or your own?;
  • Look at the reality of the change you are driving—What are the early signs of progress?…What indicators would tell you that it’s taking hold?…How will you know when it is “complete?”…(my guess is that these have nothing to do with the calendar or your company’s fiscal schedule);
  • Do your measures of sales/revenue growth match the sales cycle?…or your customer’s buying patterns (e.g., their own fiscal year or timing defined by their market)?
  • And most fundamentally…

“If you took away the calendar, is there ANY reason why you’d chop up your transformational, complex endeavor into bits defined by December 31?…Fiscal “quarters?”…Days when it is most convenient (or traditional) for the Management Team to meet?”

Challenge your Change Team to re-examine the “logic” behind your measures or the measures that are important to your stakeholders.  In all likelihood, some of these measures lack meaning because they are not connected to how you are creating value through your initiative—even getting shaped by rather arbitrary factors (if not lazy efforts) like the calendar on the meeting room wall or your businesses monthly reporting cycle for everything from paying taxes to ordering office supplies.  Measurement plays a key role in managing expectations and delivering demonstrable value through change—get this part right and where necessary, lead a revolution to overthrow arbitrary accounting of success.

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Dalip Raheja is President and CEO of The Mpower Group (TMG). Dalip has over 30 years of experience managing large organizations and change initiatives. He has worked across the spectrums of supply chain management, strategic sourcing, and management consulting.

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