3 Simple Hacks for Better KPIs

by Stacey Barr |

When you don’t have the time and energy to take on a deliberate approach to developing great KPIs, these 3 hacks for better KPIs can quickly and easily improve the way you’re measuring.


While I do believe, very deeply, in taking a deliberate and proper approach to select, implement and use KPIs and performance measures, sometimes reality gets in the way.

Sometimes there is too much urgent stuff to fix. Sometimes our colleagues just don’t have the mental space or trust for something new. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed or confused or uncertain about which approach to take. Sometimes the timing just isn’t right.

These are reasons to cut yourself a bit of slack, but not reasons to give up. Most of the time, those reasons above are symptoms of not measuring well. If we had great KPIs and measures, it would mean we had very clear goals, people engaged in their contribution to them, and a strong performance culture.

So the longer we resist better KPIs and performance measures, the longer we’ll be suffering through those symptoms. Here’s what we can do instead, to cut ourselves some slack, but still build toward a more deliberate and proper KPI approach:

HACK #1 For Better KPIs: Focus on eliminating – or at the very least clearly defining – the weasel words in our goals.

The biggest tip I can offer here is to use language that a 10-year old would understand. It’s not dumbing down the goal – it’s making it say what you really meant in the first place and in a way everyone can understand.

Here’s a list of weasel words to avoid and how to fix them…

HACK #2 For Better KPIs: Write measures and KPIs following a recipe for making them clear and quantitative and evidence-based.

Too many people are using vague cliches, milestones and data sources as their so-called KPIs or measures. They are not measures! Measures are quantitative evidence of the degree to which a result is happening.

Here’s a recipe for how to write measures really well…

HACK #3 For Better KPIs: Display measures in XmR charts, to make their signals easy to see and agree on, and to encourage discussion about improvement.

Pie charts, dashboard dials, bar charts and tables are terrible ways to present KPIs and measures. That’s because these displays were never designed to answer the main question we ask of KPIs: is performance getting better, worse or staying the same over time?

Here’s an example of how XmR charts show clear signals in KPIs…

Where do these hacks come from?

Each of these three hacks are very specific parts of PuMP. Until you’re ready to consider and commit to a deliberate KPI methodology, like PuMP, the three hacks will make a surprising amount of different in the quality of your KPIs.

And you’re unlikely to find them in any other KPI approach you might be using, which is part of the reason they’ll make a great difference for you!

The best first things to do for better KPIs are eliminate weasel words, write measures quantitatively, and use XmR charts.
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What’s holding your organisation back from a better KPI approach? Which of these hacks would help you make progress despite that?


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  1. Tom G says:

    Great encouragement as usual!! When trying to push ideas, I do get tired very rapidly. So making one’s own front yard green will make the neighbors ask what you are putting on it out of curiosity or jealousy.

    I also offer to help people by offering to do one of their charts in parallel with their regular reporting ..Helping gives me energy and them an opportunity to try before they buy. .

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