On the 31st of May 2017, Kenya launched a new railway system that is fast and cheaper. The system has reduced the time taken to travel by passenger train from Nairobi to Mombasa, a distance of 492km, to four and a half hours, down from eight hours. It is also projected that it will carry 40% of Mombasa Port throughput by 2035. Kenyans have generally referred to this system as transformational. But is it?
The new railway system has replaced a 1900 system that deteriorated due to poor maintenance. In my view, letting a system deteriorate and then replacing it with a new system does not equal to transformation. This is just but “dancing on the same spot” because the key activities in the railway transport process, which include scheduling, loading, hauling and offloading, haven’t changed. However the technology driving these activities has changed resulting to a more efficient system. If the country never had a railway system before, then the new railway system would indeed have been a transformational transport system.
Have clarity on what your are measuring
Peter Drucker is quoted as saying that “What gets measured gets improved”. Reflecting on this quote, it is important to differentiate between “dancing on the same spot” and “taking a step to another spot”. You can improve by doing what you are supposed to do very well. You can also improve by doing what you are supposed to do differently. The former is about efficiency or what I call process quality management while the latter is about transformation and should lead to better outcomes. Measurement should therefore tell us whether we are:
- consistently doing well what needs to be done i.e. answer the question: how well are we doing?
- getting better than anyone else on what we do i.e. answer the question: what are we accomplishing?
Categorizing measures into process and performance measures helps determine whether measures will drive organizational transformation:
- Process measures provide feedback on how a process is performing. They are useful for standardizing the process so as to increase predictability in getting the desired results.
- Performance measures give us feedback on whether or not we are achieving desired results. They tell us how well our business model has performed or the extent to which we achieving desired results.
It must be remembered that one cannot improve what is chaotic or what does not exist. Process quality management is a prerequisite to process transformation.
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