5 Reasons Why Their KPIs Are Wrong For You

by Stacey Barr

It’s easy to adopt KPIs from other organisations in your industry. But look out for these five reasons why those KPIs might be completely wrong for you.

A square peg that doesn't fit in a round hole. Credit: https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/robynmac

Possibly the most prevalent reason why people won’t take on a proper approach to performance measurement is because it appears to require more effort and time. But that’s a misconception, because most of the effort and time in measuring performance improperly is hidden, taken for granted, and never reviewed.

Therefore, people most often resort to what seems to be the faster and easier way to choose the KPIs or performance measures they want. One of those faster and easier ways is to find out what “they” are measuring and adopt the same KPIs.

Even if “they” are organisations in the same industry, this shortcut too often leads to KPIs that cause more problems than they fix. And there are five very good reasons why.

Reason 1: Their performance priorities will be different to yours.

Every organisation has a specific and unique set of goals that are based on their own priority opportunities for performance improvement. When “they” were choosing their KPIs, they were (hopefully) thinking about the best evidence for their own priorities. It’s unlikely your organisation has the same strategy as others. So why take on their KPIs?

Reason 2: Their data availability will be different to yours.

The relevance of a KPI is one thing. But its feasibility to implement needs to be balanced with that relevance. If you do not have or cannot create a way to get the data for your measure, you don’t have a measure. When “they” chose their KPIs, they most certainly were not thinking about the data you have available, but the data they have available. And perhaps they weren’t even thinking about it at all!

Reason 3: Their staff might feel ownership, but yours won’t.

Buy-in comes from hands-on involvement in KPI selection, not a hand-over. People don’t trust KPIs at the best of times, and certainly not when someone else has chosen them on their behalf. Consultation is not the answer, either. KPIs will only work when you have buy-in, not sign-off. And that comes only when people are actively involved in designing them themselves

Reason 4: Their measure choices will not be based on your situation.

On the surface, “their” KPIs for workforce capability, policy advice, or change management might seem appealing. But take a closer look at how they’re quantified and calculated (if the quantification and calculation is even provided). Does the evidence they provide give you the evidence you need?

Reason 5: Their idea of what a KPI really is could be completely wrong.

Some people still think that a milestone is a KPI or measure. Or that an action is a measure. Or that a data source (like a survey) is a measure. A KPI or performance measure is a very specific thing: it’s a quantification that provides objective evidence of the degree to which a performance result is occurring over time. Are “their” KPIs real measures, or not?

The best KPIs for you are the ones you design yourself.

Sure… get some ideas about how “they” measure similar goals to yours. But you will fall deeply down the rabbit hole if you don’t start with your own clear goals, and if you don’t follow a deliberate approach to consider and choose the best measures for your situation.

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