Almost any agency leader would agree: Without clear metrics for informed decision-making at your national defense or security agency, you end up making critical decisions in the dark.
Yet, many federal agencies don’t have a measurement-oriented culture (nor are they driven by profit and loss, like in the private sector). As a result, many senior agency leaders mistakenly believe that decision-making metrics are too difficult (or impossible) to determine and track. But this simply isn’t true.
As a leader of a national defense agency, you need to understand what decision-making measures matter and then implement the data collection systems and processes to inform those decision-making tools. While metrics may sound difficult to establish – especially for administrative and executive functions – they’re critical to improve processes and operations at your agency.
Here are the top five most important decision-making metrics you need to start using at your defense or security agency:
The first and easiest decision-making element to measure at your agency is time. As a defense or security leader, you absolutely must measure the amount of time it takes to complete the critical steps of your major processes. Whether it’s a time-dependent intelligence, logistics or policy deployment process, determining time-based metrics helps you better allot time usage in the future.
Time is the clearest data-driven decision-making metric to measure and it often requires the least investment to measure. You just need to modify your current timesheet and clock-in systems to start tracking and reporting your team’s time usage.
When asked, most defense agency leaders don’t know how often recurring mistakes happen in a particular process. Yet, measuring the repetition of errors or rework is a straightforward decision-making metric: Simply have each employee record every time a mistake or rework step occurs in a given process.
Even handwritten records of error frequency give you a huge amount of data about where problems most often occur in your agency. And the data gives you incredible decision-making precision on how to fix the most pressing problems.
3. Cost (All Of It)
Every national defense or security agency measures cost, but they usually only talk about costs in terms of the budgeting process. However, your agency needs to start tracking cost information to make better decisions about resource allocation and about what programs are performing as planned.
Particularly for administrative and knowledge-based functions such as intelligence gathering and analysis, you need to measure where costs are actually occurring in each process, broken down by categories such as manpower, time, resources and errors. Your decision-making metrics should also signal when costs are rising versus falling.
2. Soft Value
Soft value metrics are those critical elements of agency operations that are often deemed unmeasureable: employee morale, customer satisfaction, leadership alignment, etc. Many agency executives have a self-limiting belief that soft values simply can’t be measured, so they don’t bother to try. The reality is that soft values can be measured – and should.
Usually the decision-making metrics for these soft values require a proxy measurement (such as retention rate or survey scores), but that doesn’t matter. You just need at least some sort of indicator of how your agency is performing in those areas so that you’re able to take action accordingly. If you simply ignore soft values because you think they can’t be tracked, you have no basis for improving those values whatsoever.
1. Return On Investment
Too many defense and security agencies believe that ROI is a decision-making metric only for private companies, but it’s not. Whether you’re launching a new program, initiative or process improvement effort, you need to know how much time and money you’re spending on that project. Then, if you calculate the benefits and payoff of your new project, you have a threshold of success against which to compare your initial costs.
While some agency efforts are simply about not losing money, most projects (even in the minds of agency leaders) require a return on investment several times over and above the project costs. Remember: When you calculate the ROI of your projects, you’re able to more robustly defend your budget and secure future funding for your agency’s programs.
Decision-making metrics don’t have to be difficult for your defense or security agency, especially if you’re willing to put in some effort upfront. And, with a clear vision of your present performance, you’re empowered to make well-informed decisions for your agency’s future.
Need to improve processes at your defense or security agency with a limited schedule and budget? Click below to download this e-book from Big Sky Associates and discover how to make process improvement efforts more cost-effective for your federal agency.