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How often should I measure?

Walking across the concrete production floor, I look down at my phone. 9:50am, plant review starts in 10 minutes. My eyes scan the aisle and I see the number "2" scribbled onto a whiteboard at the end of a production line. My brow furrows. 2!? Detouring my route through the plant I catch up with the production manager already on the scene with a Continuous Improvement team member. I look again

  • 7:00 - 11

  • 8:00 - 10

  • 9:00 - 2

"We're almost back in business, had a sensor go down." he assured me, without asking. "We've been routing product for assembly around the lift station until we're finished, we'll only be down a few units today." I acknowledge the synopsis, adding "Let's make sure we note that on the visual board." The team nods ... I move on.

A team had recently completed a rapid improvement event for that production line. One of the elements introduced was a day-by-hour chart. At the time is sounded a bit outlandish to the team to measure and record every hour of their shift. But now it saved the day. Rapid response to the deviation got critical resources to diagnose and repair a workstation. It reminds me of other conversations and push-back on increasing the cadence of reporting ... How often should we measure a process?

We can start with a coarse analogy, New Year's Resolutions. If I make a personal commitment to myself to lose weight, or get in shape, or stop smoking, or spend more time with my children ... how often should I measure that objective. Reflecting back on the resolution 365 days from initial charter seems foolish. Perhaps we can identify milestones on the monthly or weekly basis to ensure I am on track to be content with myself the next time the ball drops in Time Square. Maybe I can even identify weekly or daily tasks and behaviors I can monitor to ensure I hit those milestones. These become the things I track to ensure I meet my ultimate goal. However seriously you take your own resolutions and promises to yourself, we can agree that once-a-year does not seem frequent enough.

Take this abstraction into your organization. Where you need to maintain or improve results requires attention. Only looking at business results at year-end or quarter-end may not be enough time to react to the information. Results summarized quarterly can be adjusted for the next quarter. Results summarized weekly, within the next week. Results reported hourly, can react in the following hour. This highlights a few recommendations for deciding what, how, and when to measure your organization.

  • Measuring takes effort - understand what's important so you can "Measure What Matters" and spend those resources where you get valuable information

  • Identify what you can control and measure that - measuring and reporting on things you have no control over frustrates and disengages the team.

  • There is a need to measure (and report) at least "fast enough" to react within the next period - measuring faster is wasteful and frustrating, measuring slower does not enable you to react ... and is frustrating.

  • As a leader you have to follow up and care about what you're asking the team to measure. You help set a clear performance objective and challenge them to see the problems when those targets aren't set. Build problem solving capability.

  • Finally, be patient. Discerning what is important to your organization comes with time and understanding. Determining proper cadence of measuring and reporting comes with familiarity of the process and the variables/KPIs that drive your outcomes. Give yourself and your team the grace to learn and maybe even make mistakes.

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