Posted by Peder Enhorning

October 14, 2014

7:10 am

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Well Defined Goals & KPIs Critical to Succeed

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Why Ontario’s Plan to Eliminate Homelessness is Hopeless

The Ontario provincial government has just stated that they plan to eliminate homelessness in Ontario! What a ridiculous statement. Do they really think voters and other observers will accept such a nebulous goal?

While this is an honourable commitment, it’s a hollow plan if it doesn’t set out what the level of the current problem is, by when it will be eliminated and by taking what action. And when asked, Deputy Premier Deb Matthews said that none of those are either known or would be shared. Perhaps it’s typical of a government that makes empty promises, but it’s frustrating to me as I want to see performance measured. A goal is meaningless if you don’t outline what actions you will take to accomplish it. It’s equally absurd to say, “We are going to end all wars”. By when and by doing what?

In a recent interview, when asked why the government failed to deliver on their 2008 promise to end child poverty in the province, Deb Matthews blamed the federal government for not doing its part. She went on to say that she outlined a plan for both the provincial and federal governments to follow, but the feds failed to do what was asked of them. Of course we don’t know if the federal plan outlined by the provincial government was reasonable or agreed upon by their federal counterparts.
What should the Ontario government have done if they wanted to be transparent and accountable?

According to a 2013 CBC news report, there are 30,000 homeless Canadians every night. So let’s assume there are 10,000 homeless people in Ontario. We now need to set a date by which we want to bring the homeless population down to zero. Let’s say that is to be done in 5 years, or by 2019, which is on average 2,000 fewer homeless people each year.

A goal must be defined and measureable to determine if it has been successfully attained. If you use a structured, disciplined approach, then measuring success is straightforward. Furthermore, it drives greater achievement as you can better identify what you need to do to be successful. There is a logical chain of command that steps you through each performance gate, and each step of the way is measureable. At the lowest level are the actions taken by the individuals in the organization and these are the building blocks for successfully attaining the established goal which is at the highest level. These actions are easy to measure and corrections are obvious because they are very specific. By ensuring these fundamental items are accomplished, we can ensure that goals are as well.

Here’s what the Ontario government should have done if they wanted to be transparent and accountable:

1. Set a Goal
First, the problem needs to be stated. Goals are only meaningful if they are well defined and a clear plan of action is outlined to achieve them.

The goal should be stated as eliminating homelessness in Ontario by 2019.

2. Identify Critical Success Factors (CSFs) to achieve the Goal
Critical Success Factors represent key performance areas (things that must be done) that are vital for an organization to accomplish its stated goals. Without such factors, an organization has no roadmap by which to navigate their operations. Stating CSFs allows management to stay on course instead of being distracted by daily non-strategic problems. The purpose of the CSF is to make sure we are on track. As long as we meet the CSF, we should achieve the stated goal; it’s not guaranteed, but likely.

The CSF for the goal of eliminating homelessness might be to invest in more affordable housing.

3. Set CSF Target
Specific targets for Critical Success Factors (CSFs) need to be achieved over a set period of time and measured to make sure the organization is on track. This informs if the organization is executing successfully, but because they are summaries of many activities, they don’t provide precise insight or direction into the Actions required to improve the results. That comes next.

The measures for the CSF might be: create 200 new units in the first 12 months and double that each year for a total of 3,200 units to house 10,000 homeless people by 2019.

4. Identify Specific Actions
Very specific Actions need to be identified to achieve the CSF of creating all these new units and in the required timeframe. That means that if we are missing the targets we set for the actions, everyone knows what needs to be done differently. Likewise, we can then identify activities that are particularly successful in driving results.

The specific actions required to attain the CSFs would be:
a) identify new potential units
b) complete new finance applications
c) create more low finance loans to allow purchase of new units.

5. Measure and Track Actions using Key Performance Indicators
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are calculated metrics of the Actions we are taking and monitoring them allows us to make corrections. The plan is that if we meet or exceed our KPIs, we will meet or exceed the CSF and ultimately our goal. These Actions are considered to be critical to the success of your organization. KPIs are important because they directly track the work being done.

The specific KPIs to track would be:
a) Percentage increase in new potential units every week
b) Average number of completed new finance applications processed every day
c) Ratio of low to high finance loans to allow purchase of new units each month.

Targets are set for each KPI and are measured regularly, such as daily, weekly or monthly. We need to set values to these KPIs and make sure we hit them. If we do, everything trickles up and Deb Matthews can hold her head up high.

In summary, if the government of Ontario was serious about eliminating homelessness, they could have stated their goal and related actions like this:

1. Goal: eliminate homelessness in Ontario by 2019

2. Critical Success Factor: create more affordable housing

3. CSF Target: create 200 new units of affordable housing in the first 12 months and double that amount each year for a total of 3,200 units to house 10,000 homeless people by 2019

4. Actions: identify new potential housing units; complete new finance applications; set aside low finance loans to allow purchase of new units

5. Key Performance Indicators:
a) Percentage increase in new potential units every week
b) Average number of completed new finance applications processed every day
c) Ratio of low to high finance loans to allow purchase of new units each month.

6. KPI Targets:
a) 5% new potential units every week
b) Average of 10 completed new finance applications processed every day
c) Maintain 3:1 Ratio of low to high finance loans to allow purchase of new units each month.

To be successful, any endeavour must have a goal and must be measureable. And that starts with knowing the size of the problem you are tackling, what actions you plan to take, and over what time period. The Ontario government’s plan to end child poverty didn’t offer any of that, and as we are painfully aware, it did not succeed. Likely, the claim to end homelessness will fail for the same reason. Let’s never accept that approach to running our own businesses.

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