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Steven Spear

Steve Spear: Measure outputs generated by pathways of connected activities

By Steven Spear, - Last updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

For technical systems, the logic is self evident that we link independent variables (e.g., “settings”) and dependent variables (e.g., “states”) through a causal logic, and measure both to be sure we are tracking well.  When we are not, the gap between anticipated and actual is trigger for corrective action–both immediate containment and update to a better model of input-output causality.

Organizational measurement often fails by the being irrigorous in comparison.
— what objectives are being pursued are ill defined.
— what factors can be controlled to affect outcomes are ill chartered.
— how behavior affects consequences is not logically developed.
We then devolve into seeking universal measures for purposes of feedback and control, when such universality, by default, is useless for gauging action and impact or guiding action change.
By way of contrast, the argument I make in The High Velocity Edge (*) is that for the purposes of measuring processes for the purposes of managing them well, they should be articulated as: outputs generated by a pathway of connected activities.
*: (see Chapter 6 of The High Velocity Edge for elaboration.  For parallel examples in the technological field, see similar taxonomy by Baldwin and Clark in Design Rules)
Outputs: What product or service has to be delivered to whom, in what form, by when
(what the system as a whole generates, as Tracey describes)
Pathways: What work, in what order by whom
(work content and responsibility assignment)
Connections: Content, timing, format, location by which work is based one step to the next
(the interface connective tissue of the organization).
Activities: What work elements, in what order, with what time, location, and result
(work methods)
Defining a system at each of those four levels declares:
— what resources we’re going to use (pathway)
— how they are going to relate (connection)
— how they are going to behave (activity-method)
to deliver the products and services necessary to make us successful (output).
Defining with such precision creates the opportunity for building diagnostic tests into work to see if the system is on course or not.  If not, that feedback gives us triggers for containment, correction, and improvement.
Respectfully,
Steve Spear

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