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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Hudson

Review of Stacy Barr's Book 'Practical Performance Measurement'

Stacey Barr's book 'Practical Performance Measurement' was both insightful and highly actionable. Rather than focusing on the theory that has little bearing on actual business practices, Stacey uses her practical experience to ground PuMP Blueprint in great examples of clients she worked with that have used measurement to transform their organisations.

The overall impression is that 'measurement' is a fundamental practice that organisations need to be guided by in their strategic and operational decisions. Most organisations don't do this properly; they disguise a measure with an activity or barely check the measures and reports. Therefore, here are the three tips I gained to stop these issues and many others from occurring.

· Tip1 - Being specific about the measure avoids ambiguity and ensures people understand what the measure relates to. For example, the UK initially counted Covid death rates if someone had had a positive Covid test at any point in time. This was changed to count deaths if someone had a positive Covid test within 60 days of death. This significantly changed the death rate statistics for the UK.

· Tip2 - KPIs are not a stick to beat-up employees' for poor performance. Highlighted in many areas of the book, it suggests that mistrust of KPIs primarily comes from managers lambasting their staff for the non-achievement of targets. Instead, Stacey indicates that they should be using them to motivate and guide the team to focus on the things that matter with measures used to understand and resolve performance gaps of success. The switch of mindset when it comes to thinking about measurement is pivotal in my understanding.

· Tip3 - When working through a project, performance will be surveyed by the team regularly using performance indicators. While evaluating performance, the team must look at it from an evidence-based perspective rather than simply stating that the team is part of the way towards a goal. Saying that a project has reached a milestone such as 50% integration for a system doesn't mean it is performing well; without checking its performance, it could be doing more damage than good. Instead, Stacey suggests the review process should be done by looking at how it improves performance. This way of framing the review makes sure the focus is on improvement rather than simply reaching a milestone.

Improving performance is difficult, but Stacey's PuMP Blueprint gives an excellent guide about the value and use of measurement to help organisations achieve their goals. Beyond this, reading it may change your opinion on how to set your own goals. Some of the fundamentals have certainly changed my thoughts.

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