Thursday, October 31, 2013

How to Evaluate Organizational Performance in Economic Hard Times

Organizational CultureWe’ve all made the decision to improve our appearance at some point in our lives. Maybe we’ve decided we were going to lose weight by dieting and exercise. Or maybe we’ve decided to gain strength by lifting weights. The first thing we did was stepped on that scale and said “Wow, I need to lose a few pounds”. Or we ran to the gym and measured our strength and endurance at various exercises.


What we were actually doing was creating a baseline. We were creating a snapshot of our current selves. Let’s just pretend that we didn’t baseline our current self, we didn’t have our measurements, and based personal goals based on Miss America, or Mr. Universe’s appearance. We wouldn’t capitalize on the available data (our current selves) and set realistic goals. Shortly, we’d become frustrated, lose motivation, and eventually fail.


Likewise, businesses often don’t capitalize on available data to get them through difficult times. With a new year beginning and growing concerns of our economic future, now is a good time to evaluate our current environments and identify our organizational strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvements and cost savings. This article discusses the value of baselining organizational performance, different baselining approaches your organization can, and overcoming variables that add complexity to your performance baselines.


Baselining involves using historical performance data to calculate averages and standard deviations. The average establishes the baseline and the standard deviation is a percentage change in the baseline deemed acceptable. When performance exceeds the standard deviation, some specified action is usually required.


If your organization has clear, specific goals and objectives, the data to be used in the baseline is easier to determine. And of course, if goals and objectives are vague or unclear, it can be difficult to identify important baseline data. But given these tough financial times, it is probably most beneficial to focus on financial performance and key processes.


A performance baseline is performance information gathered to evaluate your current state and measure variations to gauge successes and failures within the organization. Baselines may also be used to establish goals and standards, to set SLA metrics and performance thresholds, and to make important decisions. But perhaps the most important, but overlooked reason we do performance baselines is to refocus our organizations on what’s important. You may have done a baseline a couple of years ago, but chances are you are still measuring the same things you measured back then. Performance a new baseline forces us to re-evaluate what’s important to organization as it endures the constant changes brought on by this dynamic economy.


Types of Performance Baselines


There are three types of baselines:

  • rolling baselines

  • recurring time-based baselines

  • and specific date baselines.


Rolling baselines compare current performance metrics with a period of time preceeding the current period. An example would be comparing last month’s performance to the average performance of the previous 12 months.


Recurring time-based baselines compare current performance metrics with performance baselines calculated for the same length of periods. Daily or weekly baselines are good examples of recurring time-based baselines.


Specific date baselines compare current performance metrics with the metrics from a specific date. For example, gathering baseline sales metrics for the day after Christmas.


Complexitites of Baselining Performance


Historical baselines often answer the question “how many?” such as “how many tickets were created over a given period of time?” The historical baseline data are the averages of such counts over that specified period. Baselines can be relative to any arbitrary point in time.


While this seems simple, it gets more complex when you take into effect some of the following variables: processes that take several days to complete, business hours calculations (e.g. M-F, 9-5, excluding holidays or specific dates), calculations involving multiple time zones, and calculation involving phased implementations.


When processes extend for multiple days, counting and time calculations become considerably more difficult, especially when a reporting tool is not utilized. Processes executed on business days and during business hours are also more difficult. In this case the proper divisor at the Day level is the number of business days in the last 365 calendar days, taking into account weekends and holidays. The divisor at the Hours level is the number of business hours in the last 24 hour period. Calculations with Multiple Time Zones can span across multiple cities around the world, reflecting different holidays and work norms. The baseline divisor thus becomes a function not only of Time but also of Location, thus further complicating the process. Projects utilizing phased implementations where new locations or divisions go “live” as the enterprise expands (such as in a phased Enterprise Resource Planning implementation). In this case, the baseline calculation must take into account how long a particular location has been live in order to obtain an accurate baseline.


Understanding Variables and Standard Deviations


Variance and Standard Deviation are measures of how spread out a distribution is. In other words, they are measures of variability. The spread is the degree to which scores on the variable differ from each other. If every score on the variable were about equal, the variable would have very little spread. Standard Deviation is the square root of the variance. It is the most commonly used measure of spread. An important attribute of the standard deviation as a measure of spread is that if the mean and standard deviation of a normal distribution are known, it is possible to compute the percentile rank associated with any given score. In a normal distribution, about 68% of the scores are within one standard deviation of the mean and about 95% of the scores are within two standard deviations of the mean.


Identifying the Right Data to Baseline


There’s a basic rule to identifying the right data to baseline:


1) measure what your customers say is important,

2) measure areas where there are problems you’d like to solve, and

3) measure the business objectives you are aiming to achieve.


If your organization has clear, specific goals and objectives, the data to be used in the baseline is easier to determine. However, if goals and objectives are vague or unclear, it is difficult to identify important baseline data. Measurements should be aligned to your organization’s objectives and should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely).


Victor Holman is a Business Performance Expert and CEO of Lifecycle Performance Professionals.  His Business Done For You Service helps small business owners level the playing field with larger, higher budget competitors by delivering high performance marketing, management and social media solutions that build credibility and expert status, and generate steady leads and increased profits.


Get FREE ACCESS to his highly acclaimed Insider’s Secrets Club, which provides the latest business growth tools and strategies to explode your income.


Get a FREE Performance Management Kit at


Visit Victor at or today


How to Evaluate Organizational Performance in Economic Hard Times

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

10 Steps For Managing Key Processes That Drive Business Success

Process Improvement - Lifecycle Performance Pros

Process Improvement Life Cycle for Continuous Performance

When it comes to performance management, managing the performance of your processes can be your best avenue for driving performance gains. Identification of key business processes is critical to organizations as they execute your strategy by aligning the results of these processes with the strategic goals. Key business processes are those processes which have maximum impact on the success of your organization. Key processes are those that move you closer to your goals and have the greatest impact on your organization. In other words, these are the processes which would seriously impact revenues, should they fail. This article examines the steps necessary to manage and maximize the efficiency of your key processes.

A typical organization should only have less than 15 key processes. A few will be the generic processes within your industry, while others will be specific to your unique approaches, goals, service, geographic location, policies, etc. In my experience, organizations are aware of most of the processes that drive their success. Unfortunately, there are often many processes which have an equal or greater impact on the organization which never receive the attention they deserve. Many times, it’s these latent processes that keep organizations from performing up to their potential. Identifying key processes using a structured approach, aligning their outcomes to deliver the business goals, designing appropriate measures and allocating sufficient resources for their improvement is the key to the success of an organization.

Many organizations struggle to identify their key processes. Most people within organizations understand their team’s function within the organization, but they do not understand how their team’s function interacts with other group functions. Business processes are streams of activity that flow across functional boundaries. For this reason, business processes are said to be fragmented, or scattered across functional silos. This is where the performance management team’s services are so valuable. Assigning a process engineer as part of the performance management team can enable you to standardize processes and bridge the communication gap that exists between functional support groups. Below is a 10 step process for managing key processes that drive business success.

Baseline Current Environment

Every performance improvement initiation starts with a baseline. You must first know how well your organization currently executes your key processes before you can fully understand what you need to do in order to reach your desired level of process execution. This is the foundation and gives you your starting point for where you need to improve.

Identify Critical Success Factors

Critical success factors are the elements that must be present in order for an initiative to be successful. Some critical success factors in process management include:

•Process alignment – aligning processes to organizational goals and objectives is critical to organizational success

•Technology investment – the more you can automate your processes, the more efficient your organization will and the more you’ll be able break down and identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies

•Measuring performance – in order to truly understand your process execution, you must be able to measure your processes from start to finish.

Organize and Centrally Locate Processes

In order to fully understand how processes interact with one another, your processes must be organized. It used to be that each department managed their processes with very little interaction with other divisions. But in today’s fast paced business models and the need for instant process execution, it is vital that organization’s consolidate, standardize and manage cross-functional processes. This requires centrally locating processes and taking a look at the big picture.

Standardize Processes

Often times organizations have similar processes that are executed by multiple divisions and teams. One division may be extremely efficient at executing that process while another division executes at a much lower efficiency rate. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t standardize their processes. By leveraging the processes that strong performing divisions employ and standardizing those processes among weaker performing divisions, the entire organization can benefit from extraordinary performance gains.

Redesign Inefficient or Ineffective Processes

This is where we take action. Once we’ve baselined and measured our processes, we are now ready to take action. Identify the inefficient processes within your organization and the processes that do not support the organizational goals and objectives. If you have a small organization or limited manpower, you can take one process a time. You’ll see that over time you will have redesigned several processes and the impact will be clear.

Eliminate Workarounds and Duplicate Steps

How many times have you worked on a process that was flawed and you found a workaround? It’s amazing the things we will do patch up a process error to get the job done. It always amazes my clients when we map out a process and find all of the inefficiencies and duplicate steps. I’ve seen some processes where two divisions basically passed ownership back and forth until it came to an escalation point and a decision was made by senior management. You’ll be surprised at how much time you can cut out of a process when these flaws are mitigated.

Automate Processes Where Possible

This is the name of the game. The more automated your processes, the less chance for human error and the more predictive your performance will be. This sometime requires a significant investment. But in an age where we want things done yesterday, the investment is most times well worth staying ahead of your competition and establishing customer loyalty.

Identify Metrics and KPIs

This is where we quantify how effective our processes are. Establishing performance measurements for your key processes, especially those that span across multiple organizations will significantly improve your performance. How many times have you evaluated a failed process only to get the usual finger pointing across the divisions involved? When you can break down a performance measure and understand how much time it should take for each division (or individual) to execute their part of the process, then you can assign accountability. And accountability often means results.

Cross Train Employees

In order for an organization to be successful, especially large organizations, it’s important that employees understand three things:

1.what are the organizational goals and objectives does their function contribute to the organizational goals and objective, and does my function impact the larger, cross-functional process

Understanding how each employee’s function impacts the function of other division is the first step in gaining synergy among your employee and the processes that drive your organization.

Develop Plan for Process Reevaluation

So, you’ve baselined and centralized your processes. You have standardized where possible. You have eliminated inefficiencies and workarounds. You have applied metrics, automation and cross trained employees so that they understand their role in the bigger picture. Now it’s time to do it all over again. Remember, process improvement is a continuous process. Your competitors are going to keep getting better, faster, more efficient and you must too.

Victor Holman is a Business Performance Expert and CEO of Lifecycle Performance Professionals.  His Business Done For You Service helps small business owners level the playing field with larger, higher budget competitors by delivering high performance marketing, management and social media solutions that build credibility and expert status, and generate steady leads and increased profits.


Get FREE ACCESS to his highly acclaimed Insider’s Secrets Club, which provides the latest business growth tools and strategies to explode your income.

Visit Victor at or today

10 Steps For Managing Key Processes That Drive Business Success