The following passage is the start of a series of vignettes related to the business world, business decisions, and omnichannel strategies. Some of them will be adapted to book chapters at some point. At this point, the vignettes are essentially a form of intellectual sandboxing that allows me to write about complex situations.
Tentative Title: The first steps in fixing a team: Evaluating the KQV productivity triad concept
Imagine for a moment that you work for an organization as a fixer. Some people really do take on this role as a profession. Most people end up getting involved for a short time out of necessity. Within this role your core function within the organization or as a temporary work assignment is to parachute into a situation and fix something. For the most part, you know that you are going to be deployed to fix a significant problem. Where you are going will be clearly defined. However, for the most part how you are supposed to achieve the desired outcomes will be and will remain highly mysterious. It will be a real challenge. It has to be a challenge that is worth overcoming. That has to be the stage and it has to be well understood.
Most of the time the fix will involve working with a group. The following paragraphs of insightful prose relate specifically to working with groups or organizations that have team members. Perhaps at some point a general theory will be proposed, but at this time please accept this evaluation of a special case scenario that involves evaluating a group. Building a general theory can at this point be considered a topic tabled pending future research. The rest of this intellectual inquiry focuses on introducing a framework that can be used for evaluation. Making sure that people do the right things at the right teams for the right reasons is even harder than it sounds. This framework goes a layer deeper than my general philosophy of letting leaders lead, managers manage, and employees succeed.
Evaluating groups is about understanding how knowledge, quality, and velocity drive meaningful productivity. In the end, making major changes to the productivity of a group requires a combination of planning and opportunity. I call that path to evaluating productivity the evaluation of the knowledge, quality, and velocity (KQV) productivity triad. Understanding KQV requires a great depth of understanding about the group being evaluated. It is very rare that you will start an evaluation of an organization that is mature enough to have a key performance indicatory (KPI) compendium and performance dashboards. Those types of artifacts are usually evidence of organizational maturity.
Before breaking down the components of the KQV it would be prudent to talk about why a fixer has to have a solid exit strategy. I ask myself this core question every day during the course of evaluations, “If I walked away today without any warning or preparation, then what things would people keep doing and why would they keep doing them?” People steal great ideas. You can accept that as an almost absolute fact. Another thing that should just be accepted is that good ideas are sticky. People keep doing things when they believe in them to the point of taking ownership in them. Taking ownership of something is a very powerful motivational factor. Both great and good ideas are generally sticky. They tend be very sticky. They benefit from ownership and from sustained interest.
The concept of stickiness really matters when you are evaluating an organization. Any and all recommendations or corrective actions have to be the right suggestions. They have to prove to be sticky. They have to be great. People have to want to steal them and move forward with full ownership of them. If you want to drive any one element of organizational knowledge, quality, or velocity, then all of those changes have to be things that people would steal and they have to be sticky. I always try to channel Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People philosophy and begin the process with the end in mind (1989). That is why being focused on ensuring that all recommended changes are the right changes that will end up being incredibly sticky.
Each topic involved in the productivity evaluation needs to be explored in more detail. Specifically we are about to examine the knowledge, quality, and velocity (KQV) components of the productivity triad.
On Knowledge – The knowledge part of the KQV triad describes what the group needs to know to be successful within the organization. It is all about the collective understanding housed within the team. Organizational knowledge is easier to talk about than it is to define. An organization includes a number of people who have a unique set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that make up the people capacity of the group in total. The knowledge part of people capacity is defined by what people know. It is about how the combination of information and experience is translated into action by a team of people. When you parachute into an organization and start mapping out what is going on it is pretty easy to start evaluating tribal knowledge, daily work instructions, and new hire training materials. It takes practice to truly map what is happening. That mapping has to include what people need to know along the path to do what they are doing.
On Quality – The quality part of the KQV triad is always a little more elusive than the knowledge part of the equation. The opportunity for exceptional quality exists when the steps in a process are well documented and repeatable. If a situation exists where team members are following a well-defined set of repeatable steps to achieve an outcome, then the adherence to those steps could be measured in terms of quality. Any high quality recipe for success includes things that are repeatable. A team member working on the same set of repeatable tasks might do things flawlessly for the first 5 hours of a shift. During that sixth hour the team member might get distracted for a moment and miss a step. That lack of adherence to the well-defined and repeatable steps could generate a problem down the line. That problem could be a serious gap in quality. Most of the time quality is not that easily defined. It is something that has to be observed via some form of sampling. A number of quality related items will probably end up in the KPI compendium. They will also probably be featured in any major departmental dashboard.
On Velocity – The Velocity part of the KQV triad is usually very easy to understand and describe, but incredibly hard to measure in a detailed way. Velocity in this case can be operational defined as the speed between completing elements in the well-defined set of repeatable steps mentioned above. In general, figuring out ways to measure velocity is difficult. Most of the time team members are performing work without any real tracking system. Very few work streams include a defined time stamp at each step along the way. Those system are easier to study via numerical analysis. Most of the time datasets have to be built out via sampling and or other methods of observation. Introducing velocity tracking into an organization requires an extreme amount of planning and a defined process that includes traceable steps.
Parachuting into a situation to help fix something creates some interesting dynamics. Outside of those dynamics a certain set of objectives have to be achieved. The prime objective usually includes fixing something. That fix typically includes rolling out a plan to improve the knowledge, quality, and velocity of a group. Throughout the course of building out a plan an evaluation usually occurs. All of the steps in that plan have to ultimately lead to the creation of a KPI compendium and dashboards. Getting that built out is the key to ensuring ongoing oversight and accountability.
If a clear line of sight exists into the organization, then it will be easier for leaders to understand where the group has been and where they are going in terms of trends and results. That level analysis drives the foundation of solid evidence based decision making. The KQV triad sets the foundation for evaluating an organization. By understanding all three elements it makes it easier to understand how the organization functions and what is necessary to sustain that organization.
The bottom line on KQV is simple. It is pretty straightforward. At some point you are going to be asked to help a department increase productivity. Those increases are going to expected to occur with increases in quality. That is only going to happen based on a balanced KQV improvement strategy. Helping increase productivity in the right ways means a high degree of quality and velocity. High quality velocity is normally paired with an increase in overall departmental knowledge. People have to know what to do and what they are doing before they can transition to the next level of productivity.
The Next 5 Topics include writing about 1) my stop doing list, 2) the power of investing in people, 3) the importance of pracademics, 4) my Disneyworld experience, and 5) omnichannel contact strategies