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THE METRIC-DRIVEN UTILITY: WHY THE HOW IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE WHAT

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Abstract:

The most successful wastewater utilities utilize metrics of some sort to gauge and track their performance. WEF is working with other organizations to develop a benchmarking clearinghouse, which will assist wastewater and water utilities with creating performance indicators and benchmarks for developing agendas for improvement. While these indicators are still under discussion, debate continues as to which measures are most useful, and for what purposes. Identifying specific metrics, however, is only the first step in ensuring the organization actually uses them to upgrade performance. After a manager sets the appropriate metrics and goals, a way must be established to “drive” the organization to achieve them. This presentation describes one utility's means of driving toward betterment with metrics, facilitating organizational buy-in, and collaborating for more responsiveness.

Utility organizations can develop two different types of metrics, conceptual and operational. Conceptual metrics are created from statistics, and are intended to create a better understanding of cause-and-effect relationships. Operational metrics are achieved from measuring the result of implementing a process change, while observing results. Having metrics which measure both perspectives allows an organization to understand why things happen (conceptual), as well as how (operational) they happen.

Wastewater utilities can drive their organizations with these metrics, and learn from the data they produce. As the processes of wastewater utilities are measured, they can be improved, not only in the unit processes themselves, but by transferring knowledge to other areas of the organization. Using the metrics to validate theories can change utilities from fire-fighting tactics, or mindlessly repeating routine actions, to creating transferable knowledge for the betterment of the whole organization.

As utilities are forced to do more with less, innovation becomes a required skill. Business leaders believe that most innovative ideas come not from inspiration alone, but more from methodically analyzing information, so that they can not just do, but know. Taking the right metrics, wastewater organizations can drive to avoid unexpected occurrences, analyze incongruities, and respond to a host of things which are changing rapidly – needs, demographics, work force, regulations, markets, and customer demands.

The use of Web-based informational dashboards that deliver customized, real-time views of a utility's key performance indicators as metrics is quickly becoming the utility manager's tool of choice for assessing and improving operations. They are used to share the rationale behind the creation and application of metrics, and then they become the uniquely customized vehicle dashboard for optimizing performance, and “driving” to the best possible outcomes. They let users see the impact of their contributions to the overall goals of the organization – helping to align the business into common objectives.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/193864704784138331

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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