Wednesday, 3 February 2010

What would you wish for?

I was asked a really interesting question yesterday. “What might small businesses measure if time was no object and metrics could be produced instantaneously?”

An earlier posting Why performance measurement is worth the bother talked about how business metrics are not freebies. They take time and effort to determine, collect and analyse. But that effort pays back handsomely; both in the performance feedback they provide and the focus they put on particular aspects of a business. So it strikes me that the question is not dissimilar to
“What sort of business plan would small businesses like if it took no time to put it together?” The answers will be as varied as the businesses.

The effort required to think through a strategy, articulate it as a business plan, and then communicate it to those who need to know, is actually of more value as having the business plan. And so it is with metrics.

All plans and strategies are different. And the measures required to keep businesses on track are as varied as the plans. Measures are a reflection of strategy, not just what is available or easy to measure.

I suppose the hidden question within the question was “How do you encourage small businesses to use metrics to grow and improve quality?” I know from my own experience that many small businesses pay close attention to the financials, but not much more. Yet the number of large businesses that have sophisticated performance measurement systems suggests there is a high correlation between success and the use of metrics.

So what is stopping smaller businesses? Is it time as the questioner was suggesting? Is it lack of knowledge of what and how to measure? Or is it just plain lack of energy with everything else that has to be done? It’s an interesting question.

Having said all that I think there are some measures that many businesses would like, if they were not so time consuming to gather and I’ll post my thoughts shortly. In the meantime, what would you wish for if time and effort was no object?

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