Mark Shwartz, a case-study quality triage host at RCF Technologies (Vadalia, GA) raised the subject of base lining some process measurements before kicking off some Small and Big Now process improvements.
To the point, the answer is No! Don’t hold up the improvement efforts, just start measuring as you improve.
The reason you shouldn’t wait is supported by some now famous, almost 100 year-old organizational behavior research known as the ‘Hawthorne Effect.’
A good summary was published in The Economist here:
The Hawthorne Effect recognizes that workers who perceive their work is being watched are more productive than before the were observed. So if you don’t already have process performance measurements in place, as soon as your staff recognizes they are being observed (by management or their improvement team peers), they will perform more focused. That suggests your original baseline behavior, before observations began, won’t be reflected in new measurements.
Remember, you’re after a TREND of continuous improvement, time period over time period. So just start measuring and focus on consistent measuring. Your ‘Process Manager Voice’ is looking for improving trends until your Process Capability Goal (PCG) is met, then stable performance afterwards.
You should see some welcome improvements early on because of another phenomenon called ‘The Learning Curve’, a subject for another blog.