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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Tell Me How You'll Measure Me -- and I'll tell you how I'll behave. Over at the Gantthead project management discussion site, a question came up on how to measure processes. After someone else started going off with a cost-focused response, I just had to get up on my soapbox and offer an alternative view, repeated here...

There are two kind of measures, performance and operational. Performance measures are primarily historical (and often calculated well after the fact) and only really good for hitting people over the head well after the horse is out of the barn (cost is an example of this). Operational measures are more about short- and medium-term predictions about the expected outcome of a currently operating process and have the objective of guiding people and sub-processes to do what is right for the future performance of the larger system/process.

An easy example related to the operation of an automobile. Fuel consumption -- miles per gallon -- is a performance measure. Miles per hour, oil temperature, tire pressure, and fuel level are operational measures. For that matter, engine noise can be an operational measure as well, as deviations from the usual noise (deviations like pinging, rattling, exploding) indicate something about the future viability and performance of the car. Additionally, you can obsess about MPG (a cost metric, by the way) to the point that other critical functions -- acceleration and safety -- could be hurt.

Since the past is under the bridge (I'm not saying you can't learn anything from it or use it -- recent fuel consumption rate plus fuel level can give you a rough idea of the current possible range of distance you can go before needing to fill up -- but it does often take too long to be immediately useful), operational measures of active processes are the ones that will do you the most good for impacting the future.

Note my example of variation in operating noise. An excellent book about measuring systems and processes comes from the statistical process control world is Understanding Variation, by Wheeler.

Ahh... but what to measure? A few thoughts tomorrow...

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