Getting Started — The Self Assessment

The Self Assessment has five steps:

  • Step 1: Assess current conditions
  • Step 2: Rank the importance of each Attribute for your utility
  • Step 3: Chart the results
  • Step 4: Choose one or more Attributes to focus on
  • Step 5: Develop and implement an improvement plan

Step 1: Assess Current Conditions


In this step you assess what your utility already has in place to support the Attributes. Chances are, your utility already has systems and approaches in place for one or more of the Attributes.


On a 1-to-5 scale, assess current conditions by rating your utility’s systems and approaches and current level of achievement for each Attribute.

The following is an example table with three Attributes for the Step 1 activity.


  • The degree to which your current management systems effectively support each of the Attributes and their component parts
  • All components of each Attribute

Use the rating descriptions below to guide your level of achievement scoring.

  • 1-VH (Very High): Effective, systematic approach and implementation; consistently achieve goals.
  • 2-H (High): Workable systems in place; mostly achieve goals.
  • 3-M (Medium): Partial systems in place with moderate achievement.
  • 4-L (Low): Occasionally address this when specific need arises.
  • 5-VL (Very Low): No system for addressing this.

Continue to next step

Step 2: Rank Importance of Attributes


It’s hard to address everything at once. Some Attributes may be more important to your utility than others. The purpose of this step is to think about how important the Attributes are relative to one another, allowing your improvement efforts to focus on what is most important.


Rank the importance of each Attribute to your utility with the most important Attribute designated “1,” the second most important designated “2,” and so on. The least important Attribute is designated “10.” The following tab has a sample page for a rating and ranking exercise.

Based on:

  • Your utility’s vision, goals, and specific needs
  • The interests and considerations of all stakeholders (e.g., staff, customers, regulators, elected officials, etc.)
  • Current or expected challenges in the particular Attribute area
  • Recent accomplishments in addressing these challenges
  • The long-term importance of the Attribute to your utility

Note: Importance ranking will likely evolve over time as internal and external conditions change.

 Your analysis for Step 1 (rating achievement) should be separate and independent from your analysis for Step 2 (ranking importance).

Steps 3: Graph Results


The purpose of this step is to combine the results of the first two steps into one graph, allowing you to see how the Attributes compare relative to achievement and importance.


Graph each Attribute based on your rating and ranking.

  • For example, if you rated Product Quality (PQ) “4” for achievement and “3” for importance, you would place it on the graph as illustrated below
  • Similarly, if you rated Customer Satisfaction (CS) “3” for achievement “5” for importance, you would place it on the graph as illustrated below

The Self Assessment tool automates your rating and ranking input and will graph the results.

Step 4: Choose Attributes


In this step you choose the Attributes for improvement effort focus by examining the Step 3 results. Utility managers may wish to focus on one (or a few) Attribute at a time, aiming eventually to ensure that all Attributes have been addressed and improved upon over time.


Use your chart from Step 3 to choose the Attributes on which to focus your improvement efforts. The choice to embark on improvements in one or more areas is up to the judgment of each utility manager.

  • Attributes that graph into the blue (or upper left) quadrant are both very important and under-developed (ranked 1-5 and rated 3-5). These Attributes are strong candidates for improvement efforts.
  • Attributes that fall in the lower left-hand quadrant are both important and well-developed. Some utilities may choose to focus here to continue further improving upon important and well-developed areas, due to their long-term importance (for example, water resource adequacy).
  • Others may choose to focus on Attributes that would lead to early successes to build confidence in effecting change, Attributes that maximize benefit relative to the utility’s key goals, or Attributes that minimize risks (e.g., fines, penalties, lawsuits, poor public perception).

Applying strategic business planning, measurement, and other Keys to Management Success is very important for moving each Attribute over time to the “well-developed” quadrants.

Step 5: Develop and Implement an Improvement Plan


Once you choose to improve one or more Attributes, the next step is to develop and implement a plan for making the desired improvements.


  • Conduct a “gap” analysis to identify root causes of under-performance. This analysis describes the utility’s performance goals, its current position relative to its goals, and the reasons for not achieving them.
  • Develop a utility-specific plan and/or strategy to achieve performance goals and address root causes—the plan should consider how to incorporate customer and, as appropriate, broader stakeholder interests.
  • Identify specific tasks, tactics, or management adjustments necessary to implement the utility’s strategy.
  • Identify and adopt utility-specific measures to track performance goal progress.
  • Create a timeframe for follow-up measurement to assess the degree of accomplishment and potential need for additional effort.

Utilities may also find it useful to appoint an overall improvement program manager to oversee individual improvement projects.

The Keys to Management Success provide proven strategies for effective support of Attribute-related improvement efforts. Read the Keys.

Utility Self Assessment Downloadable File

The following downloadable Excel file contains Self Assessment Worksheets covering the first three steps. You can fill out worksheets with your utility’s Attribute rating and ranking and produce a graph to support your analysis. You can update the worksheets over time, as progress is made on the Attributes and conditions change.

Download the Self Assessment (Excel)