We’ve all seen it. Metrics established for the year, and, for whatever reason, achieved prior to year-end. Sometimes by mid-year. Were we that good? Or was the target set too low? And now what? Ride out the year proudly displaying green to the goal? Tempting…very, very tempting. It’s good to be green, right? And how satisfying would it be to have an all green KPI board for a good portion of the year?
As a learning organization, the first action probably should be to determine “what happened”. Did the goal lack ambition? Did business conditions change enabling the goal to be met earlier or more easily? Was the metric truly meaningful? Is this status a temporary situation with the real possibility we will fall below the goal in the near future? Understanding the answers to these questions can help to ensure more realistic goals are set in the future and to validate the goal was meaningful when it was established.
However, once it’s established the metric has truly been satisfied, the more important question is: what do we do NOW with several months yet to run in the year? As tempting as it may be to let it ride, how will that help the organization?
Let’s explore this with an example:
One of the metrics at a group of major component manufacturing plants was the conformance to the production build schedule on a daily basis, measured at the part number level. Once the weekly production schedule was formulated and published at the start of the week, each production line was measured on its conformance to that schedule by part number on a daily basis. So, if there were 50 Part A’s and 30 Part B’s that were scheduled, as long as these were produced within the day, the schedule was achieved. (There were a lot of good reasons to do this: inventory reduction, stabilized supplier schedules, support for pull systems, scheduled deliveries, manufacturing discipline, to name a few.)
After the obligatory whining and wailing about the metric, the plants went to work…. And lo and behold, within a relatively short period of time, this metric was achieved at a 98–100% level, by ALL the plants.
Cue the celebration!!! Great!!!! Once the methodology to achieve the goal was understood, it was relatively simple…. So, let’s just use this goal every year! And we did; it became a hardy perennial, one metric we were relatively assured could be green every year without a lot of effort. All of the improvements attached to the successful accomplishment of this metric were realized. We hit the goal, celebrated, and rested on our laurels.
What SHOULD we have done? Adjusted the metric…if build compliance by day yielded positive results, what would happen if we changed the metric to “build compliance by shift”? And then later when that goal was achieved, “build compliance by hour”? How much waste could we have driven out of the system? We’ll never know……
But the lesson should not be ignored. Once you achieve a metric and institutionalize the practices associated with it, then it’s time to tighten the goal or implement a new metric, one that will push the organization to become better, faster, more nimble, with less waste.
In hindsight, we missed a golden opportunity to drive continuous improvement in our plants. And this was simply ONE such example.
Yep, it’s good to be green…for a minute. Unless you’re Kermit the Frog.