Continuous Improvement blog Is that really a benefit?

In June I had the opportunity to talk about Strathclyde’s approach to evidencing the benefits of change at the Leadership Foundation’s DVC/PVC Network Event in Glasgow.  During my presentation Alison Johns, Chief Executive of the Leadership Foundation, asked:

"What is the difference between a benefit and a key performance indicator?"

I am often asked this question in one form or another, and I’ve found through my work with other universities that defining what the benefits of change are is actually more challenging than people first think. Below are nine suggested benefits collected from a range of real change initiatives: 

  • Creating capacity for growth´╗┐
  • Introduction of service level agreements
  • Development of new PGT courses
  • Increased cross-disciplinary research
  • Reduced number of process steps
  • Opportunisitic networking
  • Shared resources
  • Improved functionality of new IT systems 
  • Introduction of Standard Operating Procedures
These all sound great, right? But look again at each suggestion and ask:

"Is that really a benefit of change?"

I've found that people tend to start talking about project objectives, the solutions that will be implemented, or even project deliverables when trying to communicate the benefits of their own initiatives.

For example, isn’t creating capacity for growth an objective? Surely the benefits come from what you do with that capacity and how you grow? And what about introducing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)? SOPs are a deliverable of an initiative and effective use of them may lead to benefits like reduced processing time, but they are not a benefit in themselves. We have a chapter in our latest Guide and a practical tool that help you avoid these common pitfalls and confidently articulate and measure the benefits of your change initiatives.

Now that we’ve discussed the distinction between the benefits of change and other attributes of an initiative, what would you say is the difference between a benefit and a key performance indicator?