How measuring success at the start can lead to victory at the end

September 28, 2016Tips & Tricks


Begin with the end in mind… and know how to measure it

Australia is a sporting nation and whatever sport you follow – win or lose – when the dust has settled on all the celebrations, accolades and sometimes recriminations (don’t mention the Bledisloe) we ask ourselves what makes the difference between the winners and the losers?  No doubt it’s the performance on the day, but you wouldn’t get anywhere close without the right preparation.  Planning for success begins on Day 1 of training.  And isn’t that the same in organisational change?

Begin with the end in mind… and know how to measure it as Stephen Covey reminds us in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

You might not cross the finish line first all of the time in your organisation, but you’ll go a long way to leading the pack if you know what success looks like from the outset. And even more so – if you have the means to measure that success. It’s all well and good to push the headline “what gets measured, gets done”, but what are you actually doing about it and are you leaving it too late?

Envisioning the success from Day 1 will go a long way in ensuring you and your organisation will end up as the winners and not the losers when you reach that finish line.

How measuring from the start will lead to success at the end

Here are three of our favourites for why ‘measuring from the start’ really matters:

1. It provides an early opportunity to test perceptions about what success is and whether it’s possible.

Is this change really going to deliver X?’ ‘What about Y?’ ‘Are we focused on the right things?’ ‘Is this too much?’ This can be confronting especially if change resistance rears its ugly head early on but isn’t it better to be aware of these perceptions and concerns sooner rather than later when you are deep in the throes of a project?   We strongly recommend starting with aligning key stakeholders behind what success looks like, and digging deep into actual behaviours rather than broad, theoretical statements!

2. It’s a good way to establish the baseline for change, which can be monitored regularly to assess and confirm readiness.

These ‘markers’ ‘or ‘rest stops’ provide valuable opportunities to reflect and if it makes sense to do so, come up to the surface, focus and adapt to new conditions or circumstances. These markers can also be an effective way to check if the bar has been ‘set at the right height’.

3. Understanding the end game (and using clear metrics to demonstrate progress towards it) can be hugely motivating for those involved in or impacted by a change program.

Regularly measuring, tracking and then celebrating achievements along the way can make a real difference. Note that celebrating only at the end is not enough! As I was recently reminded in an article on reducing change resistance, don’t be afraid (or forget) to pour champagne over successes’. Do this, remembering that ‘people are different’ and not everyone may enjoy celebrating in the same way.

Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it – H. James Harrington

Where to start?  

A good foundation starts with at least these elements:

  • Get into the starting blocks correctly

Empowering all the change leaders in your ‘system’, no matter where they stand in the organisation, requires early attention.  We believe that this, along with careful analysis and planning upfront enables smart and sustainable change pathways.

Not sure where to start your epic change journey?  Blue Seed has an easy-to-use online Change Gauge, so you can quickly understand the scale, complexity and challenges (and opportunities!) of your organisational change. It only takes 5 minutes to complete and you’ll receive a summary reporting on your change and advice around next steps to lead your organisation to the desired state. Try it now!

  • Define clear, specific and achievable measures.

These must link clearly to the business strategy, business case and business outcomes and demonstrate ROI. In the example of workforce optimisation, these may relate to staff retention levels, process re-design effectiveness or FTE efficiency targets. Work with the business to ask, challenge and affirm that targets are achievable; how they will be measured; and agree the optimal timeframe(s) to use these measures to reinforce findings and progress.  Not to mention giving sensible consideration to the the anticipated business performance dip!

  • Have clear measures related to both the project AND the business outcomes.

After all, success is required when delivering (‘installing’) the project, as well as when creating lasting change for the business (‘implementing’change). It is all too easy to focus just on the deliverables of the project (e.g. deploying a new piece of technology), while overlooking the change(s) you need to see within the business (e.g. high user adoption rates, improved time management and productivity). This is often because these success measures cannot be realised until much further down the track.

So are you on to a winner? Are your scores for creating metrics and measurements likely to place you and your organisation in a medal winning position? What factors do you think contribute most to reaching that success? Join the conversation


START NOW – Complete our quick Change Gauge assessment tool and receive your free report with tips and advice on YOUR Change Program to help you cross the line first, every time

Related Story:  For more on considering the whole and not just the parts, read part 1 of this series What synchronised swimming can teach you about managing change

By Chantal Patruno and Cheryl Miles-McGuirk








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We’ve seen that the sooner an organisation is willing to identify and address their (human) change capability needs and gaps in detail, the quicker they will be likely to reap the rewards.

We’re on a mission to make change management – change for the better!

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  1. No one left behind – Blue Seed Consulting on June 19, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    […] Find out about how to ‘measure’ change success […]

  2. Roman Seabrook on August 28, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    I could not resist commenting. Very well written!

  3. Paul Vittles on September 6, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    A recurring experience over the past 3 decades is being asked to undertake “an evaluation” towards the end of a policy or service initiative, and being told that there was no baseline established from which to measure success. Every Government Department & public service does it, demonstrating institutionalised incompetence, a lack of understanding of the basic principles of evaluation, a lack of forward planning, Government taking risks that a commercial organisation would be reluctant to take, and a huge waste of our hard earned taxpayers’ money as the politicians of the day effectively ‘bet’ on potential winners and then aren’t able to tell if their gamble paid off…except via defining success in terms of polls & election results.

    Paid officials are a combination of obedient servants, and innocent bystanders as, in their busy-ness and limited frame of knowledge, with most of their technical research & evaluation advisers removed long ago to be able to hit a few short-to-medium-term financial targets, they fail to put an appropriate evaluation framework in place. By doing this time-and-time again, it constitutes a form of ‘learning disability’ which, if seen in their own clients, would probably result in a funded support program to help solve the problem – although they would still then probably omit the essential baseline and framework required for a proper evaluation so we’d never know.

    Flowing from this, another common request is to carry out retrospective analysis via questions like “how much do you think things have improved?, a classic flawed question, which effectively asks participants to do the analysis for them, rather than answering simple questions that objectively measure whether there has, in fact, been improvement during the course of the program, and as a direct result of the program (other things equal, and with a control sample).

    I was once interviewed for a role in NSW Treasury and I suggested that all of their programs could be transformed by always starting with a visioning exercise among all relevant stakeholders; mapping out a measurable ‘finishing line’ that everyone committed to working towards; undertaking a robust baseline study; periodic progress studies focused on how far we are from the finishing line and how to assure success; and a wrap up study with lessons learned. I suggested avoiding the old model of ‘hit & hope’ plus evaluation “to see if we have been successful or not” and moving to a ‘success assurance’ model where we all make sure the policy or service initiative is a success every time.

    I didn’t get the job and instead they appointed people “with more detailed technical knowledge of evaluation methods and statistical analysis” and “with more detailed knowledge of policy formulation and service delivery in our key portfolios”. So, the status quo was maintained. ‘Failure assurance’ was built in to the model, with the ability to precisely measure past & present failures, without adding to the capacity to map out the future and assure success. When I subsequently met with some of the expert technical evaluators appointed, and asked them how it was going, they told me there were some problems. Guess what:

    1. no proper baselines & frameworks being established
    2. being asked to ‘evaluate’ too late, with the initiative already well down the track
    3. difficulty engaging with stakeholders and getting commitment
    4. their ‘internal clients’ being too involved in the detail and too busy to take time out to plan and execute effective evaluation
    5. politicians blowing with the wind and changing priorities whilst they were working on 3 year programs
    6. lack of fundamental knowledge re evaluation (an excellent Centre for Program Evaluation was set up but I’m not sure if there was any sustainable change in 1-6)

    In the past 30 years, I’ve heard hundreds of managers, leaders, directors, politicians tell us “we live in a world of constant change” and yet, when it comes to evaluation good practice, nothing has changed – except that everyone nowadays is “moving into the digital age” and now doing it badly ONLINE!!!

    • Helena Pilling on September 19, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks for your comment Paul, very interesting to hear it from your perspective.

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