Last week I turned to the business world for advice about ‘key performance indicators’ and process goals. Many colleagues say they do not set specific goals. To me certain goals are evident even if unstated; attempting a course implies the goal of passing and enrolling in the program implies the goal of obtaining a credential. While there is so much conversation about study processes it might be helpful to keep some perspective about what goals can mean over the course of a year-long term. Remember this piece of advice from the business world, ‘you can manage what you can measure.’
What must be measured and managed to be successful in this program? Measurement comes at exam time; analyzing the exam experience is the first place I look to establish process goals. For example, I think about what an academic essay needs to contain and how much time I need to write an essay. I analyze my process for clarifying questions and how I produce a thesis statement. When I want to establish a study plan I clarify my goal, work out several strategies to achieve the desired result and implement the best process; when I want a change in outcomes I examine processes. Throughout the term remember one more piece of advice from the business world, ‘outcomes or outcome changes are driven by process and operation changes.’
Outcomes are driven by how I manage my study process and how I identify and develop skills. For example, time management is an annoying issue in exams. It annoys me because it should not be an issue if I am prepared with specific skills. I need to understand how much time I use to write an essay and why that amount of time is required before I can change the outcome. These are process issues that I can measure, manage and change to produce a better outcome. I need to produce performance criteria then implement my plan and evaluate results. I can move forward confidently by understanding that outcome goals are driven by process and operational goals.
Process and operational goals are also valuable to test new study plans. For example, what does the unstructured syllabus in advanced study require in terms of organization? Once I establish criteria I will test my results many times before 2011 exams; in December if my essays require more than forty minutes to write after completing an essay outline I will revise my study plan.
Essay outlines and writing time are some key performance indicators. Others are my ability to use terms, identify themes or express my understanding of concepts. ‘Key Performance Indicators’ are related to my process steps and can be measured against my objective; writing a concise, comprehensive argument in an academic essay. I can establish multiple performance indicators and process goals to make the complexity of exams and essays manageable. Remember one last piece of advice from the business world, ‘break complex issues into pieces you can take control over.’ Setting goals make that possible.