About enablers and metrics

As explained in the main article of the Cube of Good Management, while the 24 elements of the cube represent the principles and goals to be achieved, it is only through enablers and metrics that those can be achieved. Let me first define what do I mean by enablers and metrics.

  • Enablers: An enabler is any type of material, document or information that materializes each element in the cube. It can be a diagram, a checklist, a visual indicator, a user guide, a video, a template, etc. The purpose of an enabler is to design the specific shape of an element by adapting it to the organization’s context. Without enablers elements are mere theoretical concepts which lack usefulness and impact.
  • Metrics: A metric is generally a quantitative measure that allows monitoring and analyzing the performance of an element in the cube. Metrics are key to make the most of the cube’s elements on the basis of a scientific continuous improvement method.

In order to obtain any value from the Cube of Good Management framework, organizations must elaborate specific enablers and metrics for the elements in the cube. Of course there are many options of enablers and metrics for each element, so the key is that the organization chooses and designs those that have the best fit in its context and best options at achieving its objectives while complying with the principles of the element. Hence the steps to define enablers and metrics are always the same:

  1. Start with a clear understanding of the purpose and principles behind an element.
  2. Consider all the different options of enablers and metrics that you have for that element.
  3. Choose and design those specific enablers and metrics that best fits your organization and implement them as best as possible.
  4. Use metrics results to obtain feedback on the performance of the element and fine-tune the design.

I think this will be clearer by providing you with a couple of examples: An easy example using Standards and a harder one using Values.

An example for the Standards element

Standards refer to those codes by which an organization agrees on a common way of doing things. The philosophy behind Standards is quite straightforward, it can be summarized in two principles:

  • Standards harmonize the way organizations do certain things in order to achieve superior results according to their context: On one hand we all know there are many ways to do something, but within a certain context one of those ways is usually superior to the rest. For example there are many ways to cook a sausage. It could be cooked using a charcoal grill, a microwave or even a sun stove. The fact is that if you are a chef at the Ritz Carlton you probably want all your cooks to use the charcoal grill and definitely not the microwave, if you are operating an ecotourism restaurant in the middle of the Savanna it might be better for your image to use the sun stove, while in the case of a small food stand in Wembley Stadium all you might be able to use is a microwave.
  • Standards harmonize the way organizations do certain things in order to enable continuous improvement: Continuous improvement constitutes the main source of excellence and competitiveness for any organization, but without a standard it is impossible to do continuous improvement. Think that you are operating that food stand in Wembley Stadium and customers are complaining about the tenderness of their hotdogs. What would you do? Well, you would either decrease or increase the time in the microwave and its power in order to produce a more tender hotdog. However, this would only be possible if you had systematically applied the same time and power to all former sausages, should you have applied random time and power you wouldn’t know what to do and would probably keep introducing random adjustments only to keep dissatisfying your customers.

With these principles in mind the organization must consider the different options for its implementation and decide on a set of one or several enablers and metrics.

Continuing with the food stand example, the objective is designing an enabler that standardizes the way sausages are microwaved from a time and power perspective. We could consider using training and a standard operating procedure (a set of step by step written instructions) but this would take quite some effort and wouldn’t probably be too effective since the operators could easily forget about their training. What seems most effective in this case would be a simple visual standard to be placed over the timer and power knobs like in the following image. Simple and effective:

Example of a simple visual standard as an enabler for the Standards element

Regarding metrics there are two main ones that we should be tracking:

  • Percentage of hotdogs that are cooked in compliance with the standard.
  • Percentage of customer complaints and compliments about hotdogs tenderness.

Once enough measurements for these metrics are collected, the results would be analyzed in order to decide if the standard is appropriate or needs to be evolved. Some possible changes would be  for example changing its target from 100º to 120º, making it more precise by adjusting the window to cover a tolerance of ± 5º instead of ± 10º, implementing a poka-yoke mechanism to avoid other settings different from 100º or eventually replacing the analog knob by a digital one. All this should be tackled using the a scientific continuous improvement method based on the obtained results.

An example for the Values element

While the Standards example was an easy one, Values is probable one of the hardest elements in the whole Cube of Good Management. Despite of their paramount importance for aligning the organization and its culture, Values have somewhat of an elusive and ethereal presence across most organizations. Values are the guiding principles at the organization’s foundation, which should align everything else in the organization with its mission, vision and customer value proposition. Values have a strong weight on strategy design, they are at the basis of all codes in the organization, they determine how organization engages with its people, they should be used for determining the best path of action among different options, etc.

Most companies, if not all, have somewhere a somewhat standard list of values that is routinely ignored by everybody. The common problem with those lists is that they don’t represent the real values of the organization and nobody feels identified with them nor is willing to use them for anything. Therefore when constructing the enablers for Values the following objectives should be taken into account:

  • Values must clearly define who the organization is and what it believes in.
  • Values must be continuously present in the minds of all people in the organization guiding their daily actions and decisions.

Hence the adjectives that should apply to an organization’s Values are authenticness, engagement and impactfulness. Clearly not what organizations are achieving with their values today.

One of the best examples of enablers that I know for the Values element comes from IDEO. The design firm has defined their very specific list of values according to what its core to how they understand doing design: Taking ownership, talking less and doing more, making others successful, being optimistic, collaborating, learning from failure, and embracing ambiguity. They call their values “The ties that bind us”. What is really spectacular about their values is that their enablers consists of a video exemplifying each value. These videos are created by the employees themselves and are communicated internally through viral sharing. This clearly ticks all the boxes for the objectives of the Values element. Here below you can see two examples of those videos (the rest are available at the official Ideo page at https://vimeopro.com/ideo/value-videos):

 

Regarding metrics the purpose is determining to which extent the values are representative and impactful to the organization. In this sense there are two metrics that I recommend:

  • Can everybody in the organization recite and explain the values?
  • When was the last time the values were referred to take a decision?

If people in the organization don’t know and can’t explain the values or simply can’t remember the last time that they were used, there’s definitely something wrong with your organization’s values and their enablers, and you should take better care of them.

 

Jorge Díaz – jdiaz.eu

The Cube of Good Management framework is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution – Non-Commercial – No Derivatives 4.0 International license as explained here


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About me

Jorge Díaz, consultant specialized in Operational Excellence applying the principles from Lean, Agile and Process Management. More about me.

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