Active Strategy Enterprise — an Aspirin for Organizational Performance?
Some things are good for you in so many ways, you feel like a fool if you don’t use them. Aspirin, for instance, is good for your headache, can save you during a heart attack, may reduce the risk of certain cancers, and may even help prevent cataracts. Exercise is another great example. It helps your health, your looks, your disposition, and gives you a hobby. Now here’s one you probably didn’t know about: ActiveStrategy Enterprise (ASE) performance management software. Really!!
O.K., I know. It sounds like a stretch, but bear with me while I explain.I recently assisted an organization with their application for a state-level Baldrige-based award. The organization has well deployed scorecards in ASE and they conduct regular Business Reviews within the software, drilling into the scorecards to discuss performance and root causes of problems. They will get Baldrige points in the “Leadership” category for establishing and maintaining a systematic approach to moving the organization toward their vision (see illustration depicting Baldrige categories below) . And they’ll get big points in “Strategic Planning” for having a well defined approach to planning and plan deployment.They use customer input to refine their metrics, and so will “score” in the “Customer Focus” category. Don’t get me started on “Measurement and Knowledge Management.” ASE provides accessible data on everything that is critical to performance and is a one-stop-shop for finding and sharing success stories and methodologies that “all hands” should be aware of.
As for the required use of comparison data and benchmarks, ASE keeps it in view and part of on-going analysis of operations. Even if you don’t use the “Personal Goals Management” feature of ASE (which enables employee-level scorecards), you still get a lot of the “Workforce Focus” that Baldrige requires by making it easy for everyone to see how projects affect the big picture.ASE is all over the “Process Management” category. Many lower-level, or child, measures are process measures. If you use ASE, you can print your “Results” category charts right from your scorecard screens, showing levels, trends and comparisons.Maybe you’re not a Baldrige person, so you’re not convinced yet that ASE is the aspirin I promised. So let’s look at it from the perspective of “Six Sigma.” A recent book by Dr. David H. Treichler, “The Six Sigma Path to Leadership – Observations from the Trenches” extends Six Sigma from a process improvement methodology to an approach to becoming a “Quantum Leader”
who achieves quantum improvements in results.As a Baldrige devotee, I would like to debate him on a few points, but not on his assertion that “Quantum Leaders enable the mechanical process by which data are transformed into information. They create the means by which the data are regularly collected and reported and transformed into knowledge that is shared across the organization. This knowledge becomes the basis for evaluating alternative futures and decision making.” No, Dr. Treichler is not part of the ActiveStrategy marketing team; in fact I got his book from the American Society for Quality. The good doctor waxes on, telling us that his Quantum Manager “posts” his management actions and models using data by “creating dashboards to monitor progress.”
The doc deals with strategy development by providing a check list of people and information you should bring to the table. Beyond that, he does not discuss how a Six Sigma methodology produces a strategic plan. However, I will save my rant on the limits of Six Sigma for strategic planning for another blog.But I will refer you to a world view that is nearer to my heart and supported by ASE. I refer you to “Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Surprising Lessons from the Latest Brain Science” by Charles Jacobs. And now you’re probably thinking ‘any book that knocks feedback could not possibly lead you to employ ASE or any other performance management software.’
But in fact the author is knocking “subjective feedback.” He asserts that subjective feedback will be “dissed” because people have a deep seated need to hang onto their self-image. They will attribute a performance failure to something or someone else — probably the person providing the feedback. He suggests that workers appraise their own performance, using whatever hard data are available: “They have a greater ownership of any shortfalls.”This fella would love ActiveStrategy’s steps for conducting Business Reviews. He tells his readers to “use questions to engage employees.” He chastises managers to “stop worrying about the right incentives to motivate good performance and instead leverage the universal human desire for meaningful work.” Jacobs is a man after my own heart. I have seen dead wood come to life when they feel part of something that matters. If employers don’t offer employees a chance to be heroes, the staff marks time to pay the rent and keep the kids in college, the only heroics available to them. ASE, particularly the Personal Goals feature, helps link everyone to the highest aspirations of the organization.
I’ll rest my case on Jacobs’ point that to motivate people, “objectives and goals “should be in the service of a larger mission.” As ActiveStrategy CEO Jack Steele says when he is teaching how to build a strategy map, “you have to start by expressing your vision.” ASE brings the organization’s vision into focus, but even more importantly, it brings all the elements together that give it legs and — equally important — heart. Just like that multi-tasker aspirin, ASE is good medicine for all sorts of organizational ailments.