Measuring success – more than the numbers
Facilities managers need to change how they define and measure success to focus on outcomes. MARIE-CLAIRE ROSS explains.
For many years, leaders have bought into the false belief that business is all about numbers. Organisations and leaders spend a lot of time setting up systems to measure external outputs. They determine how the organisation is performing by measuring sales, return on investment (ROI), cash flow, share price and so on.
While this data is important, it comprises by-products of past performance (or lag indicators) that have limited impact on future performance.
Focusing on these details alone is a bit like a bikini. It hides what is most revealing about the organisation – what activities the people in the business are undertaking to support future growth.
Numbers don’t run a business – people do. Numbers can’t make decisions and products or execute a vision. Numbers tell you what, but people tell you why. Measuring external outputs is very different to measuring internal productivity.
FACILITIES MANAGEMENT AND DATA
The increasing prevalence of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) is producing staggering amounts of facilities management information. While data scientists are often required to interpret the data, the real value is in how well organisations can translate those insights into tangible benefits.
This is a wonderful opportunity for facilities managers to transition from being merely perceived as a support function to a value-added partner. But it requires a mindset shift from providing operational help to actually advising department leaders on how to create the right work environment to get jobs done more efficiently through improving interactions. It’s really about matching hard data to the softer and behavioural side of business.
FROM OUTPUTS TO OUTCOMES
Facilities management is at the forefront of workplace change. Over the last 10 years, how people work has changed more rapidly than ever before. Collaborative work technology, the rise of hot desks and the shift away from paper have all changed how work gets done.
Such changes have demanded shifts in how people interact and work together. Unfortunately, our everyday work behaviours haven’t necessarily caught up.
Blame it on the Industrial Age. Back then, when you had a factory outputs were important to drive efficiencies. Monolithic teams toiled in a hierarchical structure that was heavily process driven and predictable. Decision-making was centralised and employees were poorly educated and not expected to think for themselves.
But times have changed. Today, the world of work involves highly educated employees working in nimble teams to solve complex problems and make decisions. Results take longer to achieve. They require leaders who can trust employees to do the work based more on achieving outcomes than clocking in and out at a certain time each day.
Of course, the main issue is that measuring external outputs is easy (and addictive). It’s about how many widgets produced. Every day, the team checks off their task list. Produce 150 widgets. Check. Ship 150 widgets. Check. Get a feel good rush. Check.
Yet, the outcomes that the team is trying to achieve are harder, often frustrating and require more time. It’s not about how many widgets produced, but how well the team made them together. Examples of outcomes include improving customer usability or increasing collaboration between sales and manufacturing.
Outcomes or inputs are lead indicators that highlight future performance. They take time to solve and rely on two types of trust – faith that the strategy will work (or can be successfully modified) or trust that the team is doing the work to get there in the end.
Organisations that want to alter how people behave internally must turn their attention to outcomes. To truly predict how the organisation will perform in the future requires lead indicators that are just as vital as any hard numbers.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy because it requires a change in focus on what success looks like to drive the behavioural shift.
This is where facilities management needs to step up. The future of facilities management is heading towards how to advise the C-suite on how to efficiently use space to create a better working experience that energises employees.
As a facilities leader, you need to truly understand specific department needs and what work needs to get done and why. Your real value is to understand all the data that is being collated to advise on how to best integrate a physical space to get jobs done more efficiently. It also means staying away from only focusing on outputs (such as costs saved per square metre) to also including outcomes (such as 12 percent increase in employee engagement) that leaders want to achieve and the best ways to measure them.
This is difficult, but not insurmountable. There are companies making great strides in measuring these important outcomes. WeWork, a global network of workspaces, is constantly capturing data and evaluating member feedback to drive not only improvements to its physical product, but its client experience. One of its key measurements is looking at how collaboration is helping its clients undertake work more efficiently.
MOVING AWAY FROM A BOTTOM LINE MENTALITY
A study by Zenger Folkman researched 400,000 360-degree surveys. They found that the most successful leaders possessed a powerful combination of competencies.
Sixty-six percent of leaders in the top quartile possessed both a focus on results and interpersonal skills. Meanwhile, only 13 percent of leaders who focused on results alone and only nine percent who focused on interpersonal skills alone reached the 90 percent percentile. In other words, being focused on results and interpersonal competencies equalled top leadership performance.
Leaders who can focus both on results and interpersonal skills need to not only be in the right work environment to allow these behaviours to flourish, but they also have to understand that it’s no longer enough to deliver results. The future of work requires trusting employees to do work whether they are based remotely or in the office.
As a facilities leader, you have to walk the talk to show other departments how to improve their behaviours, by getting the best out of your own teams. This means:
- Avoiding micromanaging and controlling the situation. Be responsible and accountable for delivering, but also let go and allow the team to do the work they are employed to do. Share risk in a team, so that it’s not just your neck on the block.
- Being flexible in achieving goals. Goal attainment is no longer a linear process of getting from A to B with small iterations along the way. It’s realising that, to get to B, you may need to go down C, understand it’s a dead-end and make a pivot down both D and E to get the desired result. This is messy and sometimes frustrating. It requires acknowledging that, no matter how many unexpected obstacles get thrown, it’s time to pivot and create a new way of measuring progress. We can’t change our circumstances, but we can change how we think and respond to them.
MOVING TO LEADING INDICATORS
In a low-trust environment, it’s a challenge for organisations to rely on daily exchanges with customers, consumers, investors and other stakeholders. But organisational growth demands that how people interact internally changes and grows.
The right answer is the ideal balance of both leading and lagging indicators that provide information on how the business has performed in the past together with how it will perform in the future – aligned with growth plans to ensure the organisation is on track to keep reinventing, in order to delight the customer.
It requires facilities leaders who understand the big picture and who can be the trusted adviser to department leaders to help them design and maintain the right collaborative environment for innovation to thrive.
Marie-Claire Ross is the chief corporate catalyst at Trustologie. She is a workplace sociologist, author and consultant focused
on helping leaders put the right processes in place to empower employees to speak up about issues, challenge each other and share information. If you want to find out more about building trust, download the free insights paper ‘Building Trust – How High-Trust Companies Deliver Faster Results, Increase Profitability and Loyalty’ at http://bit.ly/buildingtrust2016.
This article also appears in the June/July issue of Facility Management magazine.
Image: 123RF’s christianchan © 123RF.com