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How Do I Measure People Development?

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Dear Gemba Coach,

What is the metric for people development?

I have to admit that I’m stumped on this one. It’s a very good question. We know that what gets measured gets done. So if we argue that developing people is a manager’s number one responsibility, it makes sense to have a metric.

On the other hand, we also know that metrics are good at measuring output, but not outcomes. Studies show that the best way to stop your kid from learning a second language is to reward them for good grades – being narrowly rewarded, people shift from deep interest in the subject to deep interest in getting the grade, never mind the topic. Should we have a metric for people development?

Personally, I’ve never worked with a metric as such. Yet in all companies I know working on a full lean transformation, we’ve established a regular (quarterly, or at least twice a year) review based on people development:

  • Autonomy in problem solving: for each position, we try to list the key business problems people in that role are likely to face routinely and should be able to solve correctly without outside help.
  • Leadership in dealing with others: we also list the key leadership issues they’re likely to have to deal with both in terms of managing their staff and working across functional barriers with their colleagues, customers, and suppliers.

Thinking Is the Goal

At review time, managers look at their n-1 and n-2 groups and assess them on these two dimensions. As a result, a plan is made to either try to develop the person where we see gaps, to promote them if we think they’re up for a challenge, or to limit their role when we see they’re drowning and their job is too demanding.

Clearly this is not physics, so the lists for every role are built as the reviews go, starting from very sketchy to progressively far more detailed. I’ve not yet seen any one actually create a metric out of these reviews and not sure how it could be done without biasing the process. The idea is not so much to do something to subordinates, but make managers think about how they develop their staff and how they could do it better. Managers themselves are the target of the exercise, not the people they manage.

Like most large companies, Toyota has a more formal appraisal system, which, from what I’ve seen, varies from site to site. One such score card shows:

  1. Expected Role
  2. Competency Improvement Focus (based on last year’s competency appraisal discussion: Toyota Way Competency, with the one or two specific behaviors the person has to focus their development efforts on.
  3. Individual Objectives (up to 5) with a challenging target and a minimum target, which are weighted, such as:
    1. Reinforce safety awareness amongst members
    2. Achieve best quality at new vehicle start of production
    3. Improve efficiency of production
    4. Strengthen people development
    5. Cost control
    6. A mid-year review on the objectives
    7. A year-end performance appraisal, both by self and by the supervisor, and both are scored
    8. A year-end competency self-appraisal, with items such as:
  • Accurate information gathering and analysis
  • Creation of innovative visions
  • Communication and sharing of Mid-to-Long term action plans
  • Awareness of situations and decisiveness
  • Perseverance
  • Strategic reallocation of management resources and review of work methods
  • Establishing framework and systems for management
  • Suitable assignments and objective performance review
  • Feedback of evaluation results and long-term development of others
  • Realization of own mission
  • Technical knowledge and capability

Now, all of these items are scored, but I didn’t think of asking at the time it was explained to me whether there was a single metric coming out of it.

2 Types of Managers

And again, any Toyota example is interesting to see what they’re aiming for, but not particularly useful as a “best practice” – this is just what one Toyota plant was doing at one given point in time. Other plants will be doing it differently, and the same plant will have an evolving system. Looking at the topics and the structure of the evaluation is an illustration of how they look internally at their managers, not a guide to be copied.

Having said all lf this, there is a people metric I use to estimate the likelihood of success of a lean transformation. If you look at it from the CEO perspective, you can see two types of managers in the organization, let’s call them:

  • D-types, for do: these are take charge and get it done types. Good managers who thrive on clear objectives and discipline. I’m not talking about martinets; they can be excellent people managers, but their main skill is execution. In lean, these are the managers who thrive on 5S programs, step-by-step roadmaps, and so on. If you can tell them clearly what you want done, they’ll get it done.
  • L-type, for learn: less charismatic, often messier managers, you notice over time that whenever you give them a new team, the team somehow improves its performance and ways of working. They’re not afraid of exploring new issues, and not bothered about messy, inconclusive results, as long as things clarify over time. They seek continuous improvement rather than one shot make it good and move on to the next topic. These managers teach because they learn with their teams.

Any organization (Toyota included) has a mix of both, and I’m not arguing you should have only one type of on your staff. Still, my experience, for what it’s worth, is the ratio of Ls to Ds tells you how difficult the transformation is going to be and, to a large extent, how likely you are to succeed. As lean transformations progress, we tend to see a slow replacement of D types with L types, but of course, this can’t be done too brutally, or the reverse can happen. I guess that’s my metric.

2 Comments | Post a Comment
David Johnston April 7, 2015

Our organization uses an annual Inividual Development Plan (IDP) process, and the metric is completion of the IDP tasks.  IDP's are created by the individual, with review and approval by their manager / mentor, therefore each person has ownership of their own plan.  Making sure the plan is SMART, just like individual goals; is a shared responsibility between both participants, and requires consistant timely reviews.  The metric is only as good as the task is at fulfilling an individuals needs, but when used properly, successful individual development is easily recognized and celebrated.

Paul Leao April 7, 2015

People development is one of those soft skills or measurements that are difficult at best to measure. There are many indicators that could provide some insight into general direction of all employees such as; number of problems solved; number of improvements made; number of people participating on kaizen events, etc. These may provide some directional information but could be severely slanted as well. If you were to apply the Pareto principle one might discover that 20% of the employees are doing all the event work, problem solving and improvements. So these could be indicators but not a sufficient all encompassing metric for employee development.

If development is viewed as the growing ones skills and behaviors, perhaps there are other methods to measure progress. One could look at the dollars spent for education. Potentially you could measure how many people take an in-house development course or classic training provided by the company. These efforts could also be slanted by the Pareto principle as well. A company could improve the metric by making a series of training mandatory for all employees. Thus driving a metric but to what end, shear numbers or real development of the employee.

Offering such training programs is great for driving numbers but the underlying questions still remains. What are you trying to measure? If you are trying to measure the development of your employees what will you do with this information? Is this somehow a driver to your organization? Based on this metric what would the company do differently? If we are already struggling with measuring development and we manage to come up with a metric, when that number declines what lever would you pull to make an improvement?

This all seems nebulous and hard to measure. Are we really trying to measure development or are we perhaps looking for something else. There is an underlying premise here that people want to be developed. Is there within us all some inherent factor that we all want to be developed? Although I believe this to be true to some degree, there are some people who are perfectly content doing what they are doing. In some cases they have been doing it for 20 years and wish to continue to do the same thing. This would fly in the face of any sort of a development metric. Admittedly, not everyone wants to stay where they are either. Some do in fact want to pursue development. They will be the ones that will alter whatever metric you put in place to measure development.

I propose that before measuring development, using whatever metric you believe represents development in in your organization, that you take a look at what will really drive development…desire. What is it within an individual that would make them desire to improve or develop themselves? Without understanding and driving towards a desire for everyone to want to develop there is no development that will take place. Thus a need for an organization to measure development needs to start with developing a desire within their people; to want to develop; to want to change; to want to make improvements.

Developing desire in an individual is difficult let alone developing desire within an entire populace of a company. One thing that drives desire is the feeling of being believed in, the feeling of being trusted, the feeling of knowing someone cares about me and wants what is best for me. No alter ere desire or hidden agenda. True and honest consideration for the individual and their well-being and goals in life.

Once people believe that you are real and that you care for them and have their best interest at heart. A desire begins to formulate in them to do better and to want to develop themselves. When people begin to think like this it begins to infect all that they do, themselves, their family, their friends, their co-workers, their employer. Ultimately this results in some form of improvement to the company that might be trying to be captured in a single metric for development.

As you can see development is next to impossible to put your finger on let alone find that one true measure for development. But rest assured that your employees would want to develop when they are well cared for. They will want to make improvements because you care not only about the work they do but who they are. Asking for them to make improvements is difficult until they know you are real. John Maxwell says “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” So create a desire in your people to want to improve themselves and you will see development taking place, which in turn drives the bottom line of any company.

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