What they are
Process metrics help to determine if a process, as designed, is working.Outcome metrics demonstrate whether or not you are getting the intended outcome. Both are important when you are implementing a change of any type or scale. Also, there is a direct relationship between processes and outcomes. Change inevitably means that business processes, IT systems, roles, informational resources, policies/rules, et cetera will change and sometimes drastically in order to achieve a desired outcome. Unfortunately, focus is often placed on outcome metrics mainly because that is the goal you are trying to achieve. Little thought is put into ensuring that the changes that must be put into place are appropriately piloted, evaluated or tested and that often leads to poor outcomes.
How to use them
Start by asking and answering:
- What are the processes and outcomes that actually need to be evaluated or measured?
- How will the data be collected?
- When will you start and end your data collection?
- Once collected, who is going to analyze the data?
You decide to implement a standardized naming convention for shared electronic files within your office. A team within the office has met and made a recommendation for a naming convention that they believe will: 1) achieve consistency and 2) enable staff to find files easily.
The recommendation is shared at a staff meeting along with documentation on how to use this. You decide to test this before proclaiming this is the practice. You decide that a week will be enough time to test this and ask that staff save files in a TEST folder. At the end of that week, you have your graduate assistant review all the files and identify who saved files, determine if staff used the correct naming convention, and ensure that the right types of files were saved. The student shares the results at the next staff meeting.
- The student found that one staff person did not save any files. Ah! That is someone who works from home and was on vacation the week the pilot was discussed. That person was not involved in office discussions about the pilot. Easy fix.
- The student also reports that the correct naming convention was used with all files (GREAT!).
- However, there were some files in the folder that did not belong because they did not fit the definition of “shared files.” When asked, those staff said they really were not sure what belonged so they saved everything in that folder. You realize the documentation was not very clear. Again, another easy fix.
- You then ask everyone what they liked about the process and what could be improved. They think the naming convention is intuitive and will be easy to get used to. They are not 100% sure if they will necessarily find files easily, but want to move forward with full implementation and revisit the process in one month.
- Remember that if you focus only on the outcome and the intended goal is not reached, the probability is high that something about the process is not working. By adjusting the process, you will likely achieve better results.
- Keep your metrics simple.For instance, with a process metric, you are often asking yes/no questions such as, “Did this document make sense or not?” If no, “What needs to be changed?” With an outcome metric, you must have the goal clearly articulated so that you know there is success.
- Communicate to those participating in the pilot and collecting/analyzing the data the purpose and time frame. No one is keen on collecting data for no reason and in perpetuity.
- If you can rely on pre-existing (secondary) data, do so. It demonstrates the importance of having that data in the first place.