The reasons for simplifying how you do business are compelling: Higher profits, more consumer loyalty, less employee turnover. But six months after steering your org toward simplification, how will you know if your efforts are actually working? By establishing metrics that connect to each of your simplification goals.
After a decade of helping companies succeed through simplification — and writing a leadership book about it — I’ve found that the right metrics enable you to truly measure the effects of simplification. To decide which ones are right for your business, start by identifying your simplification goals.
Determine your three to five goals by answering the following questions and turning those into goals that address your areas of complexity.
1. In which areas of our org/business will simplification have the biggest impact?
2. Which behaviors in our organization need to change?
3. Which simplification behaviors do we want to encourage every day?
4. What types of simplification results will indicate successful outcomes?
Once you’ve drafted at least three goals, you’ll now create metrics that correspond to those goals. For example, if one of your goals is to “finalize our annual strategic plan more quickly,” one of your metrics could be “decrease in number of weeks spent drafting strategic plan.”
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Feel free to create your own or customize from this list of popular simplification metrics:
· Decrease in number of approval layers for hiring qualified candidates
· Employees appear less overwhelmed by their workload
· Number of steps or layers removed from our product-development process
· Number of meetings eliminated
· Decrease in volume of internal emails
· Number of reports killed
· Amount of time saved by eliminating PowerPoints from internal meetings
· Decrease in time spent communicating on irrelevant social media channels
· Increase in conversations and comfort levels around eliminating meetings
Note that your metrics can be soft — as in “employees appear less overwhelmed by their workload” — and your metrics can be hard, as in “number of meetings eliminated.” Try to include a mix of hard and soft metrics that track simplification’s effect on your business and encourage positive habits.
Here’s another pro tip: Review your metrics for accidental consequences. For example, if you want to track “amount of cost savings resulting from eliminated meetings,” make sure that metric doesn’t push people to blindly eliminate as many meetings as possible. Eliminating a valuable meeting could end up costing your organization money, so consider customizing any metric (i.e., track cost savings by eliminating long meetings) that has the potential for negative side effects.
Lastly, it’s key to find your baseline — or starting place — so you can measure exactly how far you’ve come in six months. For each of your three to five metrics, calculate where things stand today and where you want them to be. In other words, if “decrease in amount of time spent in meetings” is one of your metrics and your business unit currently spends 40% of its time in meetings, then 40% is your baseline.
As you customize your goals, seek to find the balance between aspirational and achievable. As in, give teams a target goal that is beyond their comfort zone but isn’t impossible to reach. When simplification wins start stacking up, momentum will be easier to sustain. Likewise, if any goal is easily achieved with time to spare, revise the goal or its timing to be more ambitious.
Whether you need to reduce time spent in meetings or remove excessive hiring layers, the right metrics will support your business goals and encourage positive behavioral change. Simplification metrics are designed to measure results, validate efforts and ideally, provide proof of your simplification success.