One of the ways we motivate ourselves is by being able to notice and track improvement over time. It is as true in the workplace as it is on the saddle.

I’ve been cycling to keep myself fit through the lockdown. I’ve always enjoyed it, so the fact that it’s good for me is a bonus. But Strava has changed my entire relationship with my bike. 

For those of you who haven’t heard of Strava, it’s an app that tracks every ride I do, giving me data on how the ride went. I now know my average speed, distance travelled and height gain on each trip. I can even compare segments of the rides I do with previous trips (and other people if I want to) and keep track of my miles and speed over time. This helps me focus on whether I am keeping up my mileage and getting fitter, giving me the data I need to motivate higher performance levels and push myself out of my comfort zone.

What gets measured gets managed.

When I first took over the Internal Audit Department at Orange, there was a productivity issue. Audits just weren’t getting done, and the overall audit plan was way off track (which makes for an uncomfortable conversation with the Audit Committee).

Each audit was, in effect, a mini project that was supposed to take a fixed number of mandates and be completed by a deadline. Instead, all projects were dragging, and the plan was way behind. 

Against significant resistance, I implemented a timesheet system and a formal project review process to see where my resources were being used (or not). “What gets measured, gets managed” became manifest in the department, and within a few months, projects, productivity, and the audit plan slowly came back under control, and the quality of the departments work raised significantly.

The team’s resistance to being put ‘under scrutiny’ was overcome by two things.

·    Allowing them to own and manage their own data and performance (rather than me running reports and then using them to kick their butts).

·    Just plain old dogmatism from me in the face of resistance (I learned about the discipline of completing timesheets without excuses at Ernst and Young).

What was really interesting was that once the system was running and habituated, the new data regime had a substantial impact on the morale of the team and the sense of professionalism and value we had. Our reputation for reliability, independence and integrity also became recognised across the company.

How could you enable your team to measure their productivity, contribution and output in ways that help them focus on self-improvement?

It almost always starts with measuring where their time is actually being spent and extends into understanding their margin contribution, costs, and quality performance. 

There is a minimum of three numbers that each employee needs: a metric of output (sales, units made, orders shipped), a metric of input (calls made, productive hours, orders received) and a metric of quality (error rate, customer feedback, audit score) to have complete control of their contribution.

Technology in this measurement space is constantly evolving, and the investment of time, money, and management time (holding the disciplines in place during implementation) will almost always quickly return on investment. 

It’s another of those things that are easy to do and easy not to do.