What gets measured gets done. At Asda they ‘measure everything that moves, lives and breathes'. This underlines the fact that great companies are not just about creating nice places to come to each day. They are solid and very successful businesses that track carefully and thoroughly the work they do and the goals they are reaching for.
Everyone has to know exactly what they must achieve for the company to be successful. Colleagues with clear measures to work to know where they stand. They will spot more quickly when things are not going well, giving them the chance to make the necessary changes. They have clear parameters within which to act and to explain where they need help and support, and why.
This also forms the basis of useful appraisal. Setting measures that track outputs plus understanding fully the behaviours that underpin the achievement of the measures is the way to assess effectiveness in both productivity and management ability. This is how companies identify the great managers - by assessing the success of the team/direct reports as well as the manager himself or herself. (See the fifth ‘case study' - Responsibility requires clear measures - at the end of this chapter.)
This is the big difference in how great companies use measurement. When numbers are down, the response is not just to put on the pressure and expect change to occur as a result. It is to wonder what is happening in the team: how come they are not able to achieve their targets? What is the problem? How can we help? If the reason is genuine under-performance, then the right action must be taken and not brushed under the carpet. (See the third ‘case study' - Facing the tough decisions - at the end of Chapter 6.)
But measuring has another function: it is a wonderful way to ensure celebration of success. Without clear measures there is no way to determine when the outcome is reached. The goalposts can keep changing, precluding the excitement of achievement.
Add in honest and open feedback and you have the final piece for making challenge an excellent development tool. Responsibility for action, setting clear measures, supporting and providing straight feedback means that people know where they are, know what to expect and are more likely to take on further responsibility when the opportunity arises.
Great companies are places of learning, and learning is most effective when coupled with experience. Give people jobs to do, evaluate, discuss, measure, give feedback on what is going well and not so well, and you have the best university life can offer.