Business Center

Short-Interval Management

The Tool and Why It’s Valuable

Driving continuous improvement requires real-time measurement of progress and taking action in the near-term to avoid missing milestones and disappointing customers. Typical measurement systems are built on intervals of one month or one quarter. While this may be fine for assessing trends, it does little to uncover the underlying causes of issues. This is where “short-interval management” comes in.

As the name implies, this technique involves frequently measuring performance versus planned goals.

How to Apply It

  1. Work with employees to select a measure that is relevant to employees and meaningful to your customer.
  2. Select your interval by using the scale of scrutiny (if your customer measures weeks, you should measure in days; if they measure minutes, you should be analyzing in seconds).
  3. Establish your target for each measure; strive to balance attainability and with the customer’s desires.
  4. Determine the format and location for the measures; strive to keep this simple.
  5. Track performance to target and engage with employees, potentially during daily stand-up meetings or “huddles”.
  6. Plot performance over time to demonstrate the value of this technique to your customers and to your employees.
Pearls and Pitfalls
  • Engage frontline staff in establishing and tracking the measures.
  • Display measures prominently in the workplace.
  • Managers should go to the area where measures are displayed (often a board) rather than magnitude (supervisor, middle manager, executive, etc.).
  • Creating and communicating escalation thresholds ensures timely engagement of the leaders needed to solve an issue of a given receiving a report in their office.

Trend information should display performance over time on a measure that is meaningful to customers and relevant to employees.

  • For short-cycle processes, this might be units produced per week or percent of licenses issued within the allowed time.
  • For longer-cycle processes, consider breaking down the process into phases and measuring the percent of milestones attained across the units in work (permits, investigations, etc).

trend

trend

A period tracking chart is used to record and display performance to the short-interval goals. Using pencil and paper on printed templates limits “measurement burden” and keeps employees engaged.

  • For short-cycle processes, this might be units produced in a given day or half-day or percent of products/units (such as licenses) completed within the allowed time.

The issues log is the “magic” in this process. Each time a goal is missed, the root cause of the failure is noted. Over time, patterns develop that inform continuous improvement activities:

  • For short-cycle processes, you might track the type of defects you witnessed or the frequency of certain issues you observe.
  • For longer-cycle processes, this might be the phase where we were “off schedule” or the type of milestone missed.

trend

trend

The actions table is a simple device where teams decide what they’ll do to improve the process. This might involve performing additional training or it might mean simplifying a form that customers consistently fill-out incorrectly. Striving for practicality empowers teams to solve their own issues.

For issues beyond a work team’s capability to solve, the “case for change” is made clear to leadership allowing them to take actions and address barriers to the teams’ success.