What is the Health of Your Organization?


June 2002

What is the Health of Your Organization?

CIDMIconNewsletter Helen Sullivan, Director, Technical Career Development,
National Science Foundation Grant Program, Collin County Community College

For several years, I managed a documentation organization for a large telecommunications company. The size of the group ranged from as small as 10 people when I was a line manager to 220 people when I was a director.

But no matter what the size of the staff or program, I always had to go beyond producing deliverables on time and managing a budget.

  • In our external customer satisfaction surveys, documentation accuracy, completeness and usability were included on the ratings scores. When we received low ratings in any area, we were asked to come up with a plan to raise the customer satisfaction scores.
  • Yearly, I was asked to improve productivity in the group by X percent.
  • We also had yearly employee satisfaction surveys, and again, if scores were below a benchmark, I was asked to develop a plan to improve the scores.
  • We could always count on a yearly ISO audit or review to examine the quality of our work. And once again, strategies were required to ensure passage of these audits.

In my first years as a manager, I felt that I was constantly scrambling to react to business needs, and I frequently threw together plans at the last minute because I was juggling so many deliverables.

One day when I had more than five minutes to actually sit and think, I decided that I was being asked for what amounted to strategic planning and that with a little proactive preparation on my part, I could get ahead of the game.

At that time, my group had never participated in strategic planning, and it was long before I had heard about Balanced Scorecard. (Balanced Scorecard offers a holistic view of your organization, pulling together plans and measurements for financials, customers, employees, and deliverables.)

I felt that I had been constantly reacting to requests for data and plans without realizing the impact of each plan on my program and organization as a whole.

For example, if my director asked me to improve productivity by 10 percent, I could come up with a plan to do that, but the method I might use to raise productivity could put more strain on employees and lower their employee satisfaction rating.

Conversely, I could initiate activities to make employees happy and increase their satisfaction (like adding an extra week to meet deliverable deadlines), but this method could negatively affect customer commitments, and, thus, lower my customer satisfaction rating.

What’s a Manager to do?

“This doesn’t seem like a healthy way to operate,” I thought. And that started my process toward developing a healthy organization and defining what a healthy organization looked like.

Using the major areas of my program-quality, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction-I started viewing these numbers together as an index, rather than stand-alone initiatives. I also tracked productivity from release to release and compared this trend to what I was seeing in my new Health Index.

The Health Index became a continuing temperature gauge that I tracked quarterly (with the help of a wonderful internal project time tracking database and a sharp administrative assistant) and then yearly.

Once I started arming myself with this information, I was better prepared to determine the baseline “health” of the organization and the dependencies between each component of the Health Index. This information became invaluable when making presentations to executives in selling the quality of work of my group and in securing funding.

The Health Index

An index is a number you define which makes sense to you. In my case, I defined the Health Index as

The Health Index = Average Quality Factor + Customer Satisfaction Rating (CSAT) + Employee Satisfaction Rating (ESAT)

The Quality Factor (QF) is derived from measuring the number of content reviews, edits, and tests an information unit undergoes.

For example

Health Index = Average Quality Factor + (1+ CSAT) + (1+ ESAT)

The Average Quality Factor is the number of reviews, edits, and tests of the measured material. So, if you had information that underwent 3 subject-matter expert reviews, 2 edits, and 3 tests, the QF for that material would be 8. If you pull together all the quality factors for a suite of information, then you add the total Quality Factors for each book and divide by the total number of books to get the Average Quality Factor.

The 1+ CSAT and 1+ ESAT are given because the CSAT and ESAT are measured in percentages of 100. So, if your CSAT rating is 87%, and your ESAT rating is 92%, then your formula would look like: 1+ .87 plus 1+ .92 or, 1.87 + 1.92

Project A has 10 books using the same customer base and the same employees working on the project.

Book 1 has undergone 2 reviews, 1 edit, 1 test = 4 (the quality factor for this book)
Book 2: 3 reviews, 0 edits, 1 test = 4 QF
Book 3: 5 reviews, 1 edit, 2 tests = 8 QF
Book 4: 3 reviews, 2 edits, 1 test = 6 QF
Book 5: 1 review, 1 edit, 0 tests = 2 QF
Book 6: 2 reviews, 2 edits, 1 test = 5 QF
Book 7: 3 reviews, 2 edits, 2 tests = 7 QF
Book 8: 1 review, 2 edits, 1 test = 4 QF
Book 9: 4 reviews, 1 edit, 2 tests = 7 QF
Book 10: 2 reviews, 2 edits, 0 tests = 4 QF

Total Quality Factors: 4 + 4 + 8 + 6 + 2 + 5 + 7 + 4 + 7 + 4 = 51

Average Quality Factor: Total Quality Factors divided by the number of books: 51 divided by 10 = 5.1

CSAT for Project A is 87%
ESAT for Project A is 92%

The Health Index for Project A is
5.1 + 1.87 + 1.92 = 8.89

You can establish a baseline health index number and then target improvements, which can be broken down in each category.

In the group where I tracked health index for four quarters, my organization’s Health Index ranged from 8.27 to 8.94. I was able to break each project down by book and determine trends and prove that not having sufficient money for editing and testing hurt the quality of our books. (Funding varied for each project. Some projects would support quality edits and tests and others wouldn’t. A lack of quality eventually always spills over into lower customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction ratings.)

A Gold Mine of Information

When I looked at the first set of information in each area, I realized I now had hard data to back up my assertion that we were underfunded in some areas. The information explained why some programs were thriving and some were struggling. I intuitively knew this already, but now I had information that I could use to make a difference.

I learned that if you collect the right information (or measurements), you can really make these numbers work for you and your staff. And, I learned not to be afraid of “bad” numbers; they can be used to get more money to increase your quality, add staff, get needed tools to raise productivity, or send writers to site visits for customer interaction and feedback.

In fact, I became so excited about these measurements that I had my team measuring all kinds of things: how many hours of training they got in technical and professional areas, how many hours of downtime they had because of computer problems, how many hours of administrative tasks staff and management were performing, and so on. After about six months of extensive measurements, I decided I had gone a little overboard in some areas. At a management team meeting, we agreed to cut back on some of our measurements, but we stuck with the measurements that would bring proven value.

I had to sell the idea of tracking this information to my staff because it required that they input information into our online database weekly. This 15-minute weekly administrative task proved to have real value, and we kept this system going until we moved into a larger organization that eventually implemented a Balanced Scorecard program.

If you decide to adopt a measurement system for your organization, I have a few suggestions to help you get started:

  • Decide what makes sense for your business and organization. Keep it simple initially. You can always layer on more measurements later.
  • Get buy-in from your boss, peers, and staff. You can’t do this alone, and everyone will want to know what’s in it for them.
  • Be fearless in collecting information even if you think it’s bad news. Being armed with the right information always helps you make better business decisions.
  • Remember that although this is “historical” data, you are using it to make future improvements. It can really help chart your course.
  • Try to keep the collection of information as easy and painless as possible. And, try to display your results the same way (pie charts, bar charts, and so on), with backup spreadsheets if you need them.

It’s tough to be a manager in any business climate, especially the one we find ourselves in today. I hope a health index for your organization will benefit you and make your organization more successful. CIDMIconNewsletter

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