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Step 3: Characterization and Idealization


Arthur M. Schneiderman

Once we have a trim, well documented process, we are prepared to continue with its management.  Many well-worn quotes can be used to introduce the next step:

You can't manage what you don't measure."


"You get what you measure."


"If you're not keeping score, you're only practicing."


"If you don't measure it, it will not improve; if you don't monitor it, it will get worse."

Step 3 deals with process performance measurement or metrics and is among the most difficult and least developed of the steps.  A process can be characterized by an appropriate set of results and process metrics.  Results metrics measure the output of the process in terms related to its customer's explicit requirements.  They are measures of process effectiveness.  Process metrics represent the key independent variables that are the internal drivers of change in the results metrics.  They often are the critical factors in determining process efficiency.  In general, each type of metric can characterize either the average value of a measure or its variability.  So we in general have results and process metrics that measure the average and variation of critical process measures.

For any given process,  there is a theoretical limit that can be achieved for each metric without redesigning the process to embody new technology or significant organizational change.   This process limit, or entitlement, or ideal represents the best that can be done with the process absent major resource investments of financial or human capital.  Without an estimate of the process capability associated with each metric, we cannot set rational goals nor decide on the priorities for redesign (Step 7).

Once we have identified the gap between current and potential performance, we can set appropriate goals based on known root causes and their associated corrective actions or on a normative model for process learning such as my half-life method.

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1999-2006, Arthur M. Schneiderman  All Rights Reserved

Last modified: August 13, 2006