‘What you measure is what you get’ is a familiar business mantra. We know that metrics can influence people’s behaviours: there is a wealth of research and pragmatic experience that supports this. But in an era where most companies are measuring more things than ever before are they getting the results they want?
There are multiple examples where measurement (targets, KPIs, personal objectives, dashboards, etc.) have been introduced to drive performance improvement, but don’t lead to the desired results. Indeed, sometimes introducing new metrics encourages undesired behaviours which reduces performance. Why is this happening?
Our explanation is that too often people have an insufficient emotional connection with the measure: ‘the head’ understands it, but ‘the heart’ isn’t engaged. Without the emotional connection, someone is unlikely to change their behaviour.
There are three reasons why the emotional connection is often absent:
We find that individuals don’t understand the reason for a particular measure in a way that is personally meaningful and/or that they can link to a coherent vision and strategy for the business.
Even in organisations that have formal processes for performance review, which includes setting key targets on an annual (or more frequent) basis for everyone, the assessment of performance against these targets remains problematic. Either the individual ends up feeling the target doesn’t really matter, because the reward and/or consequences are not sufficient, or they interpret it literally so that the original purpose is lost in the ‘rush to meet the target’.
We use a concept called ‘minimum critical measures’. These are the fewest number of measures, that are widely applicable, that are critical to achieving the performance goals. But organisations find this a hard concept to apply and criticality gets lost.
Too many companies measure too many things. So much so that people forget why ‘it’ is being measured or what difference it makes if ‘it’ goes up or down. We like dashboards as an effective tool for communicating performance, but too often see them full of data which confuses the real messages. And it is all too common to find that things are measured, or reward/consequences applied, inconsistently, which undermines a shared understanding of what is important.
Our interest is in accessibility to metrics in a way that leads to action or change. There are three common reasons why metrics are inaccessible and therefore do not encourage the desired behaviours:
There is still a reluctance to share. Some organisations prefer to manage on a need-to-know basis and share data with a small internal audience. Others that want, or need, access must go through intermediaries or complex systems – it’s no wonder some are left feeling disconnected.
Timeliness of metrics is very important. Too often the metrics lag real events by too much time and so no one really believes in them anymore. Pace and frequency of data will initiate and embed business discipline.
Where timely data is made available it is often very difficult to assess: individuals need to work quite hard to ‘see’, and really understand, the information they need.
Technology to collect, distribute and visualise data is now readily available and can be relatively inexpensive. Many companies haven’t made full use of the range of technical solutions which could help them connect their people’s behaviours to key performance metrics.
Our work is about engaging organisations to create stronger connections between the right performance metrics and people’s behaviours. Measuring the rights things in a way that encourages desired behaviours is a powerful means of improving performance – it helps organisations achieve the results they really want more quickly and more reliably. That’s a short-term impact on the bottom line!
Our approach is customised to meet a specific client’s objective and scalable to meet most requirements. It typically follows three broad steps:
Rapid Diagnostic: In a short a diagnostic we can understand what is currently happening and identify potential areas for improvement.
Developing Solutions: We develop solutions to any specific improvement areas identified and agreed in the diagnostic phase. The solution set will vary, but typically would fall into one or more of the following:
Identifying minimum critical metrics: finding the fewest numbers of measures that are critical to drive business performance.
Optimising processes: ensuring that key processes (including formal and informal ones) are encouraging the desired behaviours.
Optimising technology: ensuring that metrics are accessible across the organisation.
Embedding Solutions: We support clients to implement agreed solutions in their organisations.
Please contact Andy Tomkins on the following phone number with any questions or to make an appointment:
+44 7768 688 247
Please also use our contact form.
Connecting Metrics to Behaviours
'What you measure is what you get' is a familiar business mantra. But in an era where most companies are measuring more things than ever before are they getting the results they want?...