One of the toughest parts of being a leader is getting the information you need, when you need it.  There are several factors working against you in this regard.

First, I find that people often do not know what is the right or relevant information.  They do not have a clear understanding of their business drivers and what they should be monitoring.

Second, we all suffer from having multiple systems in-house.  Changed or varied systems means that the information you seek is often in multiple places, has changed formats or varied calculations which make it tough to combine and understand.

Finally, sometimes people inside your organization actually don’t want you to have that information.  They may feel that it exposes them.  They may feel that your visibility to that information will lead you to want to change something, and that will require something different from them (change).  All this may sound a bit cynical, but it has been my experience and observation.

As the leader you have to identify the right things to measure.

  • Study your key processes.
    • Determine what outcomes you are trying to achieve.
      • Back track through those processes from the endpoint to the beginning to determine where you have control.
        • Develop metrics to measure and manage those aspects.

Once you have identified those points of control, you must define exactly the information you want to measure, and how to measure it.  It may seem obvious, but you must check the details of the math behind the metric with everyone who is generating it.  You have to take the time to drill down into the details to be sure that you are getting what you really need and have asked for.

…you have to be sure that the metric is being accurately calculated, or you will be drawing false conclusions about the performance of your business…

As an example, in one organization we had a metric of errors per data file.  The target was 98% error free.  As it happened one business in our group was looking at each file as three files since the customer was splitting the file for use by three different departments within their operation.  If there were any errors they were only reported once, but the “number of files” was 3 times what it should have been.  In their calculation of their metric the denominator was three times what it should have been so their resulting error rate was 1/3 of what it should have been.  It seemed that their performance was far superior to those of our other business groups until we discovered the difference in calculation.

Though it seems like a small thing, you have to be sure that the metric is being accurately calculated, or you will be drawing false conclusions about the performance of your business unit, and making decisions based on bad data.

Finally, to be sure that you are not being blocked from the data you need, and to ensure that the data you are getting is accurate, triangulate on the data…use multiple sources to collect or verify the information you are gathering and using.  In that way you can more easily identify inconsistencies or errors.