what is marr charts

What is the MAAR chart?

MAAR chart concepts

MAAR stands for ‘Measure-Analyze-Action-Review’. The MAAR chart is a KPI level tool that allows a KPI owner to display on a single chart:

1. The most recent measurements of their KPI’s performance, usually at a raw data level;

2. An analysis of factor data (usually in the form of a Pareto Chart) that is used to highlight important areas to work on;

3. A summary list of projects proposed (or already in progress) to target those important areas and their progress if they are already active;

4. A review section that looks at the trend in factors as well as the overall KPI performance (i.e. a view of the actual ‘impact’ of project activity at several levels).

An example of a MAAR chart for the ‘Improve Restoration of Service Faults’ KPI we used as an example earlier might look like:

maar chart example

In order to understand its purpose, we need to understand that a scorecard is only part of any management system. For example, an Operational Scorecard is practically useless without the support of a management process that drives meaningful reviews of KPIs and the actions that are being run to improve them. Reviews demand information. In this case, our review is trying to examine the relationship between action and impact at an operational level. MAAR Charts represent the best tool we’ve come across for providing the necessary information in a concise format.

As such, the MAAR chart is a fundamental tool for the management of the Execution Cycle, so it’s important that we discuss what it is and how it works before we get into the details of designing the Operational Scorecards.

In our experience, most management teams in most organizations run ineffective reviews and the principal reason is nothing to do with culture, it’s to do with incompatible data sets:

  • The measurement of achievement (the KPI being used) doesn’t really tell you whether the objectives are being achieved either quickly enough or precisely enough;
  • The measurement of achievement stops at an aggregated level. This doesn’t help to identify or scope action as much as could and should. For example, if our objective, ‘Improve Restoration of Service Faults’ is measured by a KPI, and let’s say the KPI is ‘Average Time to Fix a Service Outage’, does this help us scope and control actions? Perhaps a little bit, but not as much as we’d like. The identification of which are the important areas for action (e.g. logging the fault, original diagnosis of the fault, engineers available, paperwork problems etc.) is likely to be done by gut feel; it’s very likely to be wrong;
  • Even if action is started, we have no performance standard for achievement for the action itself. In other words, what’s the project’s target? Is it supposed to close the whole performance gap, or just part of it? Shouldn’t it have a planned effect upon both the aggregated measure and the driver we are working on (e.g. if we choose to work on fault diagnosis, what is the improvement we expect to measure in accuracy of diagnosis and what is the target improvement in the service restoration time that we expect from the improved diagnosis?

This is where the MAAR chart comes in. In effect, the MAAR chart is an example of Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) thinking compressed onto a two-by-two matrix.

In illustration above, the upper left (Measure) quadrant of the MAAR holds a chart for the raw KPI values, in this case ‘Service Restoration Time’. Many users of MAAR charts favor a control chart in the measure quadrant, but in order to make the figure easier to read, we’ve removed the control limits and shown a simple chart with the target line at 4 hours. Either way, the purpose is the same. This top left quadrant allows managers to see where they are (i.e. how the actual occurrences of individual faults are being handled versus the target of four hours.) In this case, most service interruptions are fixed in under four hours, but there are a number that lie significantly above the line.

The second quadrant (Analyze) holds an analysis of root causes, i.e. an attempt to identify the critical factors that drive those occurrences of service restoration that fall outside the four hour target. In our example, bad fault diagnosis and the unavailability of an engineer seem to be the top drivers.

The third quadrant (Action), at the bottom right of the chart, shows the list of projects/actions that are either recently completed, in progress, or are proposed. The potential impact on the top level KPI and the person assigned to lead the action/project are also shown. Of course, before a proposed action can be initiated, it needs to be resourced and prioritized against other calls on resources. We will talk about this project prioritization process a little later.

The fourth quadrant (Review) shows the impact over time of our actions. At the beginning, when we first set up the scorecard and begin to look at the MAAR charts of KPI owners, we may find this box empty. However, there are a couple of key things to note. The data in this segment shows not just in the trend in overall occurrences of events beyond target, but the individual trends of occurrences caused by each of the major factors. This allows management to ask not just whether an action had the expected effect on the overall KPI, but also whether it had the expected effect on the factor that we thought was driving it. When the MAAR chart gets updated and presented at future management reviews, this ‘review’ quadrant is a way of checking the cause-effect assumptions in our plan of action as well as the effectiveness of the action:

  • If the KPI values change, but the factor we were aiming at with our project doesn’t change, it probably wasn’t our project that created the change. (You’ll be surprised how many times aggregated KPIs change for reasons that have nothing to do with the actions that are being taken to try to improve them. The ‘noise’ of other variables can have an overpowering effect on a KPI, despite the best efforts of those working on projects and actions to improve it.);
  • If an action changes the factor data but doesn’t change the KPI, then our analysis that said particular factor was the critical driver was flawed. Our project has been successfully executed, but the
    impact did not flow through as we expected.

The group looks at the overall picture on the scorecard, which objectives are being achieved, which KPIs are hitting target or trending towards their target, then the individual KPI owners present their MAAR charts. The MAAR chart allows them to answer, comment and evidence on the key questions that any manager should be asking a KPI owner:

  1. How are we performing against the KPI target?
  2. What are the root causes of any gaps in performance?
  3. Are the projects we’ve launched targeted at those root causes, and are they capable of closing the gaps?
  4. How are the existing projects progressing (on time, on cost target)?
  5. Are they having an impact on the occurrence of the root causes?
  6. Are they having an impact on the KPI?
  7. What other projects/actions might be required?
Paul Docherty
    Founder of i-nexus, the leader in cloud-based software for strategy execution. Respected thought leader, adviser and co-architect of the Strategy Execution 2.0 "Business System" that is rapidly becoming the de facto blueprint for how large organizations successfully deploy and execute their strategic objectives.

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