The Devil Is in the Details—Measurement Matters

Lead With Love  By: Gerry Czarnecki, Pg’s 45-48 

 Vision and strategy are generally in the province of top management, but for leaders at any level the key words are goals, objectives, and action plans. Detail is king. Virtually everybody is involved in setting expectations. At this level, we must establish very specific tasks we think must be done in order to accomplish the organizational mission. For a CEO, the task could be achieving a 25 percent sales growth. For a leader in charge of sales, that goal could be further refined: to call on thirty prospects a month, or to sign up at least two new customers per month who order at least $100,000 in new parts. For a section supervisor in a manufacturing plant, the goal could be to produce an average of 500 airfoils per day, with a less than .005 percent rework rate, at a cost of less than $35 per unit, and with 99.9 percent delivered by the committed delivery date. For an office manager, the goal might be to have all current-day documents filed by the end of each working day.

 Setting these kinds of very specific, detailed, and measurable goals and objectives is the essence of successful leadership. Ambiguous expectations create ambiguous results. If expectations are not measurable, everybody can claim that an objective has been met no matter what the result. If you truly love your staff you will not curse them with ambiguity, because ambiguity is almost certainly going to lead to the wrong results. By not showing love and not being clear about the expectations because you do not want to offend your associates, you will curse them with an inability to know what is expected of them. Ultimately, they will fail to meet your expectations, and you will have failed them, rather than they having failed you.

 Final component of setting expectations is determining how to evaluate performance against expectations. Chapter 5 will present more about evaluation, but the process begins with setting expectations. Your goal is to be certain to eliminate ambiguity early, since ambiguity will be painfully obvious in the evaluations that follow later.

 The standard advice on this point is to set goals, objectives, and action plans that can be measured quantitatively. The practical reality is this: many expectations, particularly behavior-related expectations, are especially difficult to quantify.

 Make certain when you set expectations that you have already decided how you are going to measure the performance. Many times after a decision to measure an expectation has been implemented, it is discovered that measuring the expectation is too time-consuming, too costly, or too inaccurate. In such cases, you will spend more time measuring the results than you do actually achieving the results. Always make sure the measurement is easy and obvious. If your staff thinks the results may be disputed, then you can be certain they will be.

 The best advice is to make an effort to find an easy yet meaningful way to quantify the metric. If a metric comes to mind quickly, then use it. If the goal is more qualitative than quantitative, then forget about measuring it. But remember, without a measure you make your job much harder when you get to the evaluation stage, and you make developing an associate’s core abilities more difficult as well.

Again, leaders must know what is expected and, in turn, must be certain their associates know what is expected of them. If associates do not know the expectations, then they will set their own. If they set their own, they are not necessarily responding to the organization’s goals; they are more likely responding to their own goals. When the time comes to evaluate performance, then no standard will apply. Having associates guess at what is expected is absurd. It is our duty as leaders to assure their goals coincide with the organizations.

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