Happy New ’Year in Review’ for Your Organization’s Performance Improvement Efforts

2018 is here, and we hope it will be a wonderful year for all our customers, partners, colleagues and friends!I hope everyone took some time to wind down, enjoy time with family and friends, and reflect on the past year personally and professionally over the holidays. To kick off this year, you may have caught one of the New Year’s Eve specials on network TV that do a ‘Year In Review’ that highlights top news stories, songs, new consumer products, etc. of the previous year.

Similar to the ‘Year in Review’ on these specials, this is a good time to do an evaluation of your organization’s performance improvement efforts early in the year. Just as financial results get aggregated and reviewed, your company should also review the results of your performance improvement activities over the past 6-12 months. More importantly, you should use the results to plan for this year and make adjustments and course corrections as necessary.

As part of this assessment, here are a few elements you should include in your evaluation:

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Critical Elements of a Successful Performance Improvement Initiative

  1. Senior leadership engagement: This is one of the most critical elements of a successful performance improvement initiative, but goals for this element are often not clearly set nor sufficiently met. In many cases, it is a senior leader who spearheads a performance improvement initiative and that leader may be very engaged; however, other senior leaders across the organization often do not demonstrate the same level of commitment.

Senior leadership engagement is hard to objectively assess, but here are some ideas on how you can evaluate this critical element of your initiative:

    1. Survey senior leaders about their engagement in performance improvement efforts within their business units/departments/functions
    2. Track data on how many senior leaders attend project review meetings (tollgates / phase gates)
    3. Survey performance improvement practitioners (‘belts’) on how engaged their senior leaders are in performance improvement activities
  1. Strategic alignment: Another critical element for success is to select and align performance improvement projects to the organizations strategic objectives. Here are some ways you can evaluate how well projects are strategically aligned:
    1. For those projects that were initiated during the time period under review, identify:
      1. The number or percentage of projects identified through strategic planning activities (top-down) or self-selected by practitioners (bottom-up);
      2. The number or percentage of projects aligned to departmental or functional strategic objectives;
      3. The number or percentage of projects aligned to enterprise-level strategic objectives.
    2. Review any projects that did not complete or were cancelled to determine the reason(s) why they weren’t completed.
  2. Effective Project Selection and Development of People: As with any other transformational project efforts, it is critical to balance your organizations’ appetite and capacity to execute performance improvement projects with the resources available to work on those projects. In parallel with this balancing act, and equally important, is to develop effective project leaders with performance improvement capabilities.
    1. It is better to select fewer, more strategic projects with less resources required, and ensure those projects are completed successfully, than to attempt to cast a wide net by launching a larger number of projects that require more resources, and risk the possibility of project failure. Depending on the size and maturity of your organization, the number of projects and associated resources will vary. In an organization with a new or growing performance initiative, this might mean focusing on 5-10 projects every 6-12 months, whereas in a larger and more mature organization, this might mean 25-50 projects in the same time frame.
      1. Track and review data such as the number of projects initiated during the time period under review, cycle time to complete projects, and the percent of projects completed on-time (or within a small variance from plan).
    2. Selecting the right people to lead performance improvement projects is key to project success, and should be considered carefully. Selecting those people who are available to lead projects is not the optimal approach; selecting those people who are high performers, analytical, project-oriented, and have experience facilitating teams will yield greater project success.
      1. To assess whether your initiative is developing effective performance improvement project leaders, track whether project leaders achieved a certification (i.e. Green Belt, Black Belt) by successfully completing a project, track how many experienced project leaders are mentoring or coaching new project leaders, and how many project leaders have led two or more projects..
  1. Sustaining Results: One of the biggest challenges organizations face in their performance improvement efforts is sustaining the improved levels of performance delivered through projects past the initial few months after projects are completed.
    1. Ensure there is a clear plan for what process metrics will be monitored, how often, and by whom before closing any project. Incorporate this monitoring into standard work and job descriptions for those who are responsible. Be willing to adjust this plan periodically if the process or environment changes.
    2. Review any financial benefits captured through project efforts at least quarterly (more often if necessary) to ensure the benefits are still being realized for at least 12 months after project close.

Once you have completed your assessment in these areas, it is a good idea to create an action plan, that outlines specific actions that are needed, owners for each of those actions, and due dates for when those actions should be completed. This action plan should then be reviewed during the next assessment.

Our expert advisers are prepared to assist you with your assessment activities.

Please contact us to learn how we can help!