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4 Ways Your KPIs Remind Me of Our New Puppy

We welcomed a new puppy named Romeo to our home recently, having finally given in to the kids after about five years of pleading. While we are generally happy with the decision, late last night I stood outside in the rain watching the dog refuse to relieve himself and realized that there are several similarities between a new puppy and the challenges that my KPI clients face.

They Lack Discipline

I keep telling myself that it’s not that puppies want to create a big mess, it’s that they just don’t know better. Many organizations develop KPIs that are designed by folks that are new to the KPI world also lack discipline. Without a disciplined development process, organizations tend to brainstorm KPIs that monitor activities or operational elements that aren’t very meaningful. Even when decent measures are selected, implementation requires discipline. I can’t tell you the number of training participants who have told me that they’ve selected measures but haven’t gotten around to tracking anything yet.

They Bite When They Play

My kids love playing with the puppy but complain about his playful nipping. Similarly, measures can play rough at first too as you begin to learn things you didn’t know about your performance. I’ll never forget the KPI champion I worked with that stopped supporting the program soon after he realized that their new performance measure was making him look bad. Just like it takes puppies a few months to learn not to bite, every organization must learn how to manage the fear that is associated with measuring performance. Bad news should be welcomed as it provides focus for the organization.

They Are More Work at the Beginning

With puppies, things can get easier over time provided you invest the time and effort to establish good habits. Performance measures are the same way. Some clients get discouraged by the mountain of work required to develop, define, and implement good measures. It is hard to convince some it does get easier once the measures are in place and you establish an effective reporting routine.

They’re Often Excited About the Wrong Things

Romeo hasn’t met a roll of toilet paper yet that he doesn’t want to devour. KPIs can also cause clients to fixate on inappropriate things if no one has clarified what is important. One recent training delegate told me that they still track and report on network uptime on a regular basis simply because the data was handy. Network uptime was of no great strategic importance for their organization and so the entire effort was a waste of time. KPIs are supposed to be “KEY”, meaning they indicate improvement of an important performance result. Strategic measures tell you if the organization is moving forward or changing to meet the needs of a new world. Operational measures tell you if you if you are delivering quality products and services effectively and efficiently. Most of the clients that tell us they need help with measurement actually need help articulating what they are trying to accomplish.

To learn more about how to overcome these and other measurement challenges, please see our KPI Professional Certification program.

David Wilsey is the Chief Executive Officer with the Balanced Scorecard Institute and co-author of The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard.

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