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Would You Hire a Carpenter Who Never Measures? -- Progress through Measurements of What to Work on

Dec 14, 2007
If you think you measure enough in your business, you may be wrong. Why? Do you know how much time you spend on important tasks? Do you know whether you are doing that tasks in the best way? Here's more.

One CEO tells a Peter Drucker story about measurements that may fit you. Drucker had presented a seminar on personal improvement to the CEO's U.S. Air Force group years earlier.

Each man was instructed to measure in great detail how he spent his time for a week. The CEO found this task to be a life-changing experience.

The measurements revealed all of his bad habits and put the CEO on guard to avoid those bad habits in the future. Unfortunately, this CEO's example is rarely followed. Few want to know how they spend their time or what their output is.

Try this exercise for yourself: You don't have to be a CEO to benefit.

Measure how much time you spend each week on the telephone, doing each routine task, commuting, watching reruns on television, and so forth. Then look at how much you accomplished. You will see that measurements can help redirect your efforts into more productive activities.

A Perpetual Measuring Machine

Visitors to the finance and data processing staffs of a large company were astonished to note that each cubicle's walls were literally covered with performance measurements. The idea was to encourage more focus on expanding productivity. Almost all of the measurements had been developed by the workers for their own use. By looking at each others' measurements, staff members could see how well they were doing in comparison. People pitched in to help lower performers improve so that everyone could earn department-wide, performance-based bonuses.

How did they do? Personal productivity gains of 25 percent were not unusual. Furthermore, corporate productivity in these same areas grew by a similar degree. By comparison, most organizations shoot for 2 to 3 percent annual productivity increases. Those low targets telegraph to everyone that they can take it easy.

End Results Versus Causes

Management of a luxury hotel chain learned that guests were dissatisfied because it took too long for room service breakfast orders to arrive.

The chain jumped in to solve the problem. It added more room service waiters. It even added more kitchen staff. But the situation got worse, not better.

Finally, they looked at how long it took for a waiter to make a delivery and return to the kitchen. Wait! Here was something.

The round trips took much too long. Management asked the room service waiters why. The bottleneck was quickly spotted. The waiters were delayed by as much as eight minutes by slow elevator arrivals at the kitchen and the guest room floors.

What was going on? Housekeepers were delivering a day's worth of clean sheets and towels at the same time. Since housekeepers had to unload large amounts of linen on each floor, they usually stopped the elevators while the unloading occurred.

Understanding the cause, linen deliveries were rescheduled to another time. Room-service complaints dropped to near zero.

With enough of the right measurements to find the causes of your performance, you'll soon be working on the right things, too.

Almost Perfect Is Often Not Good Enough

After many American manufacturers found that their quality badly lagged non-American competitors in the 1980s, quality improvement became an obsession. Soon, many companies were bragging that they performed at Six Sigma levels (hardly any errors per million activities).

Closer examination suggested that some of these companies had missed the boat. They had only achieved being nearly perfect in delivering outmoded offerings.

Motorola, for instance, the renowned Six Sigma innovator, saw its profits evaporate in the 1990s when the company fell behind Nokia and others in delivering new digital technologies to the market.

Some companies also didn't know how to measure their performance.

They broke down every process into hundreds of aspects. Each aspect was measured for performance. Sure enough, almost all aspects were done perfectly more than 99.9 percent of the time.

Everyone was smiling ... except the customers. As measured by what customers cared about, deliveries were deficient almost half the time. What was going on? It turns out that those little errors across hundreds of aspects compound and can cumulatively hit the customer hard. The firm should have been primarily measuring its ultimate performance for customers and then looking selectively into detail to locate where large strides could be made.


Use Measurements to Improve Your Personal Effectiveness

Ask yourself the following questions to better allocate your time and efforts:

1. How could I avoid having to do the least productive tasks at all and get better results?

2. How else could I have gotten these tasks done to get better results in less time?

3. How could I delegate these tasks to others for better results?

4. How could I inexpensively automate these tasks and meet my purposes?

5. When was I effective?

6. Why was I effective then?

7. When was I ineffective?

8. Why was I ineffective then?

9. How much time am I spending on time wasters?

10. How could I better spend the time I use on time wasters?

11. What will be the benefits to me and others of spending my time in these more productive areas?

Use Measurements to Improve the Effectiveness of Others

After you have acted on the answers to your personal improvement questions, you will be prepared to be credible as a helpful coach to others, especially with the answers to the following questions:

1. How can you interest other people in measurements?

2. How can you help others set up and use helpful measurements?

3. How can the message about the value of properly using measurements be spread even further?

Answer these questions and act on what you learn, and you'll be soon making lots of breakthroughs.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is coauthor of six books including The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, and The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook. Learn about creating breakthroughs with measurements through 2,000 percent solutions by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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