The ability to assess the success of a continuous improvement project is critical to the project’s overall success. Change management projects are more likely to succeed when executive sponsors are visible and proactive.
Executive sponsors must comprehend the value that the plan delivers in order for them to play an active role.
If the value is significant, precious resources will be directed to the project at the expense of other competing projects. To assess a project’s success, quantitative and qualitative measures of value may be combined.
The focus should be on how the change benefits the organization and stakeholders.
A quantitative measure of success for a project to reduce cycle time may illustrate that customer service was improved by 50 percent by reducing order delivery time from 14 business days to 7 business days.
This result would be expected because the program was implemented with this goal in mind.
However, if the priority of the initiative is to improve customer service by reducing lead time from 7 business days to 1 business day, then a different measure would be more appropriate.
What is the most essential thing to measure when measuring something?
The answer is that you need to measure what you are actually trying to improve.
For example, let’s say a company wants to reduce the number of errors it commits when sending invoices. In this case, the metric should be defined as “reduce the number of invoice errors.”
Once a metric has been established, look for ways to improve the metric. In our example, there are many ways to reduce invoice errors such as adding a better check-digit system or sending the invoices for approval before they go out.
By focusing on how we can measure what we want to improve and then looking for ways to improve it, companies will find that their continuous improvement projects have real results.
Today the demand for sustainable business practices is increasing. And it has never been more important to measure progress toward sustainability goals than now.
That’s because today, consumers—as well as investors, business partners and employees—want companies to be open about their environmental impact so they can make informed choices about whether to patronize them or work for them.
Developing metrics is an important step in achieving organizational sustainability goals.
The most common method for assessing the success of a project is to count or estimate the number of completed tasks by effort or length of time.
For example, you might have identified five risks for your project and worked through four so far. If you track this, at the end of the project you would have a total of four risk mitigations completed.
This simple measure will allow you to quickly identify success or failure at a glance.
However, this approach does not consider if the risk reductions were effective. For instance, it is possible that two of the risks turned out to be irrelevant and their mitigations not worth the effort.
Alternately, one of the risks turned out to be so critical to success that it made all your efforts moot and your project was a failure. The best measures consider both task completion and effectiveness.
A common mistake is assuming that tasks need to be 100 percent complete before reporting progress. While this may mean less reporting, it will likely result in less accurate reporting.
For many types of tasks, it is more appropriate to report progress as a percentage complete. This allows you to consider the level of effort required for each task and ensures that 100 percent completion does not become an impossible goal.
When reporting metrics, avoid providing too much data.
Typical reports include the number of activities begun and completed, the number of changes to the project plan, and cost/budget variances.
Each of these can provide great insight if used correctly. However, many metrics reports include all this data just because it is available.
When reporting on deployment, only report on tasks that speak to your core goal and key objectives.
Tools and Data You’ll Need in Order to Effectively Track Continuous Improvement
In order to successfully track metrics, you will need a few different types of tools and data collected.
First, you’ll want to have key performance indicators that determine the success or failure of some aspect of the project. In our invoice example, this might be as simple as the number of errors on the documents (sending too much information for a letter, sending invoices to multiple customers for the same purchase).
In addition to KPIs, you’ll need a few other tools at your disposal.
A baseline is the expected result at a given point in time. In our invoice example, it would be best to set some goals around accuracy rates before putting into place any corrective measures.
This would allow you to determine what success looks like.
In order to track your KPIs and baselines, you’ll need a way to keep records of the metrics over time.
In our invoice example, this might be a simple document in which you record each error in a log or a database table that shows when an error was recorded against the expected baseline.
Finally, you’ll need to have some way of recording the progress being made toward your goals.
This can be as simple as a running total for KPI results or it might be something more complex, such as completing an average number of errors per day overtime.
The important thing is that you are able to track whether the results are getting better or worse over time.
While projects can be massive undertakings, it is quite common for several, if not all, project managers to forget to track the most important metric of all: continuous improvement.
You may find that while your KPIs change with several factors on your projects (such as time and budget), focusing on continuous improvement can help you to not only better manage your projects, but also develop a more effective workforce.
Having the proper tools and data to track your results is critical to ensuring that you are able to improve your project.
However, continuous improvement is much more than just tracking the right metrics; it’s about using them to develop a better plan in order to achieve greater success in future projects.
Continuous improvement can be difficult for many organizations since it requires strong leadership to foster growth and understanding of new processes.
But with the right tools, education on metrics, and dedication by project managers, organizations can see dramatic improvements in long-term profitability, which is why it is important for companies to stay informed about continuous improvement so they can more effectively tap into this strategy.