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The secret to achieving big goals

You probably already have identified a few goals for 2021. How are you going to achieve them? Better yet, how are you going to motivate your team to achieve them?

If you are like most business leaders, your goals can’t be accomplished with a stroke of your pen, meaning that you can’t just sign on the dotted line to make your goal a reality.

Most goals that make the top 3 list in businesses today require behavior change from the front-line employees.

Behavior change is one of the hardest things to sustain with your employees.

You might hear this from your team:

  • “But we have always done it this way” -> longstanding behaviors are hard to change
  • “What’s in it for me?” -> individual incentives don’t align with behavior change goals
  • “That’s not how it works” -> goals are out of touch with how work actually happens

Let’s say your big goal is to reduce overtime.

The first thing that you do to reduce overtime is to track it. You are reviewing the payrolls every two weeks, and you immediately know when overtime reaches your threshold. 

Now what? It’s too late to go back and prevent people from working that overtime last week. Now your only course of action is to clamp down on overtime in the future.

So you declare zero overtime can happen next week if it isn’t approved by you.

Next week you get 25 requests for overtime, and a lot of those requests are legitimate. Now what do you do? You reluctantly approve some of the requests, and you decide to deny the requests that you think you can put off until next week or quarter.

Then you fall behind on orders and production is not meeting the schedule. Operations teams are asking to run overtime and the sales organization is asking why their orders aren’t filled on time.

Now you are back to ground zero and you haven't successfully changed the behavior of needing overtime to run the organization. You are stuck in a do-loop of track, react, and miss.

Do loop of output management

In this example, overtime is your result. We like to call this your “output measure” because it is an output, something that is in a report after the action occurs. By the time you see the overtime results, you are too late to change the result.

Output measures are the results or the actual goal you are trying to achieve.

What you really need is an “in-process measure.” An in-process measure is something that is real-time, meaning that it can be tracked during the process of something.

An in-process measure must be:

  1. predictable of the output measure
  2. influenceable by your team
The difference between output measures and in-process measures is the difference between WHAT are your goals and HOW will you achieve them.

Output vs in-process measureNow let’s go back to our example with your goal of reducing overtime.

At the beginning of the year, you hold a meeting with you department leaders and ask them why overtime is so high in their department.

  • Eric says that overtime in his department is high because they keep getting behind schedule and have to work the weekend to make up the production.
  • Lucy says that her team’s overtime is high because they have so many people calling out each day and they have to call in people on overtime to fill the empty positions.
  • Lewis says that his overtime is high because the new cleaning process requires a micro sample and his team is staying over to wait for the results.

In each of these cases, the solution for reducing overtime is different. 

  • Eric needs to monitor schedule adherence and intervene before he gets behind schedule
  • Lucy might need to crosstrain staffing to be able to cover multiple positions on the team
  • Lewis might need to work with the micro organization to set up a testing process which doesn’t require on site support to wait for the results.

So if we redo the example above, now instead of waiting for the reports on overtime to come out every week, you instead talk through each of these “in-process measures” with your department leaders every single day. You will know how they are doing against these metrics in time to intervene on the results.

If you are working to achieve a new goal in 2021 that requires behavior change of your team, look for an in-process measure that is a leading indicator of your results, and manage that everyday with your team.

Here are a few examples of common output measures and in-process measures for manufacturers:

Output measure and in-process measure examplesIf you want to learn more about how to manage toward your goals, I am a big fan of The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney. Many ideas in this article stemmed from his book in addition to my experience in operations.


Jennifer Biggs
Jennifer Biggs
Jennfier has a passion for leading and motivating teams through cultural transformations. She believes that people come to work everyday to be great. Through her operational experience at P&G Manufacturing, she has seen the true potential of an engaged and empowered team. She joined Ampogee in 2018 after 7 years of Manufacturing Operations experience. She has an Executive MBA from UNC Chapel Hill and a BS in Chemical Engineering from NC State University.

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