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The Relationship Challenge
Meeting the technical challenges we examined in our last blog will not get the organization very far unless the board and executive develop a good working relationship in implementing the metrics that have been agreed upon. We discussed conducting such formative efforts within a board retreat, or with a seasoned facilitator and outside content experts to help define your metrics. Along this vein, Fram and Talley also share three steps that are key to achieving a positive working relationship:
1. Link an imperfect metric to a good process. Even an excellent metric will be caustic if applied by people who have little communication or trust in each other. How the metric is used to track progress and drive change will be as important as how it was defined. Trust will prove as important as the technical requirements of measurement. In the evaluation process, it is particularly important that the board chairperson and the senior management executive trust each other. The chairperson must view the senior manager as a competent executive, not an expert in direct service who needs help with management activities. Whether or not the top executive came up the direct service route is unimportant. As the top executive, his or her first job is to manage. The Board holds that person accountable to do the job, using precise and/or imperfect metrics. In return, the members of the board must distance themselves from operation and let him or her do the job. The two then can be ready to evaluate outcomes in a fair and constructive manner.
2. Let experience drive improvement of the metric. It would be easy to debate for months over the subtleties of measurements. What data will be collected? How will the data be collected? How will it be displayed? Who should see it? What should we do if it is too high or too low? While these questions will need to be answered eventually, it is better to start using empirical feedback with a developmental attitude than to insist on a complete design before you collect your first sample.
3. Attend as much to the developing relationships as to the technical act of measurement. Over time, the metric will likely improve. But it is equally important that the relationship among those measuring and those being measured also improve. The purpose of gathering data and reviewing it is to provoke and inform explorations of how to shift operations of the organization. If the relationships of those involved will not support change and creativity, then even the most precise metric will be of little value. The process for using the metrics needs to engender trust and rapport.
While Boards should not reward mere effort without results, they should be respectful of good intentions and honest work. How might these three key elements look in your organization? Have you attempted any of these elements already and, if so, what were the results?