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Home » What can’t be measured, can’t be managed

What can’t be measured, can’t be managed

Nick Busse 
Global Program Manager at Worley

Dr Andrea Howell 
Change consultant; former University Lecturer & Organisational Quality Manager

Dear Captains of Multi Year, Multi-Million Dollar, Transformational Initiatives

Let’s provide a thumbnail sketch of what happens in a typical organisation:

1. It develops robust processes to assess and prioritise business plans for multi-year, multi-million-dollar transformational initiatives with significant focus on:

  • ROI
  • Growth
  • Strategic Compliance

2. It invests in processes and methodologies (such as PMI, ITIL, ITIL, Risk) to ensure MYMMDTIs are implemented appropriately

3. Its Steering Committees are focus on:

  • Traffic Lights
  • Dates
  • Dollars
  • Deliverables

4. Its people undertake relevant audits to demonstrate compliance to processes and methodologies.

This is all designed to safely navigate to the end of the project – a satisfactory commissioning, a successful hand over to BAU, and maybe even a hint of hyper care – Great! Then on to the next MYMMDTI

What About Value? The Benefits?

Organisation often convince themselves that a MYMMDTI WAS completed in accordance with the strategy and DID achieve ROI. However:

  • Was the MYMMDTI approved simply to demonstrate how financially astute an organisation is? Or demonstrating strategic congruence?
  • While these are important factors, how effective was the last MYMMDTI (or project for that matter)?
  • On what basis was it assessed and measured?
  • Over what period of time?
  • Did the benefits outweigh the change fatigue on one or more business units?
  • Did we acknowledge the risk of change fatigue up front and if so, how effective was the change management?

More often, organisations become too focused on delivering a project within the important constraints of dates, dollar and deliverables. They miss the opportunity at the commencement of MYMMDTIs (or projects) to agree relevant metrics that capture current pain points, and over time, demonstrate the delta and value that the initiative has contributed.

While they become adept at the best practice of capturing ‘lessons learned’ on project-by-project basis and expect delivery teams to not make the same mistakes, the process of learning from our MYMMDTI and constant improvement is often overlooked, and thus making it harder to assess and prioritise the next MYMMDTI.

Most times organisations are too busy standing up an initiative, consumed by the Change Management bow wave, or worse, succumbing to the old adage

“establishing the metrics takes too much time and there is no provision in the budget”

Research has shown (certainly in the IT space) that ex-post evaluation “is one of the most neglected, yet one of the most important areas of IT investment evaluation” (Gwillim, Dovey & Wieder, 2005). Empirical studies also consistently show low uptake of ex post evaluation in practice, suggesting either that these benefits are not being valued or that significant inhibitors to these practices are active in organizations (Serafeimidis, 2001; Seddon et al., 2002).

The four main four reasons for the failure of organisations to conduct ex post evaluations are:

  • The perception that evaluation is unimportant or unnecessary;
  • The difficulty of appropriate measurement in evaluation;
  • The cost of evaluation; and
  • Political or cultural constraints.

Findings from industry support the business case for post completion reviews. A 2020 report from the Australian Institute of Project Management and KPMG, titled Project Delivery Performance in Australia, showed organisations that regularly assess performance of delivery were 11 per cent more likely to lead a successful project.

Start Managing By First Measuring

Who has the responsibility in your organisation to consistently measure MYMMDTIs?

Who in your organisation holds to account the ‘Captains’ of MYMMDTIs (regardless of single or multiple incumbents)?

What would your organisation look like if it placed as much emphasis on measuring and achieving benefits as it does on achieving dates, dollars and deliverables?