5 Shortcuts to Smarter KPIs

by Stacey Barr

If you want performance measures, metrics or KPIs that are smarter than the ones you have, but don’t have time to do it properly, these shortcuts will help.

Brainstorming, benchmarking and buying KPIs are shortcuts to avoid. Credit: Olivier Le Moal

PuMP is the minimum effort to produce the best KPIs. Over more than 20 years, we’ve tested and tuned PuMP so that every unnecessary step is removed and every essential step is included. PuMP creates smart performance measures. Don’t be confused with SMART, which isn’t meant for performance measures:

“It’s a common misconception that KPIs need to be SMART to be effective. Yet, in fact, there’s no such thing as a SMART KPI – it’s your objectives or goals that need to be SMART.” – Bernard Marr

PuMP isn’t a trivial approach to develop KPIs, metrics and performance measures. It’s very deliberate, and it does take some time to implement until you master it.

But in the same way that you go for the microwave mug cake over the more-time-consuming real chocolate mud cake, shortcuts can be hard to resist. If, however, you take the right shortcuts you can get KPIs that are smarter than the ones you have.

The following shortcuts are extracted from PuMP, and in my opinion, will still get you closer to smarter KPIs.

Shortcut #1: Start with a goal that is a result, not an action.

You can’t get smart KPIs for goals that aren’t able to be measured meaningfully. The PuMP Measurability Tests are the most thorough way to save time trying to measure a goal that’s immeasurable. There are 5 Measurability Tests but you can get closer to smarter KPIs with just one of them:

>> Make sure your goal is a result, not an action.

Shortcut #2: Describe sensory evidence of your goal.

If you cannot observe your goal happening in the real world, you won’t ever know if it’s happening. No point having a goal like that! And it won’t be measurable either. Smart KPIs are based on the evidence you can observe with your senses that convinces you your goal is happening. Get closer to smarter KPIs by starting with that evidence:

>> List the sensory evidence of your goal achieved.

Shortcut #3: Follow the quantitative KPI recipe.

Smart KPIs are not vague, not binary, not milestones. They are quantifications of that evidence you listed above, to convince you your goal is happening. There is a technique in PuMP for designing smart quantitative KPIs, performance measures and metrics (summary is here), but yours will be smarter if you can follow this recipe:

>> Build each KPI with these four essential ingredients.

Shortcut #4: Get the data you need the easiest way.

When you’re looking for shortcuts, you can be tempted to build KPIs just from data you already have. But smart KPIs are the measures you need, not always the measures you have. If you find you haven’t got the data for a KPI you really need, then don’t be afraid to use a simple manual data collection process in the early stages:

>> Get your data manually, just to get started.

Shortcut #5: Use a line chart.

Comparing this month to last month is so last century. Don’t let old habits make you waste your KPI by drawing conclusions that are fallacy. The shortcut to take, that will still help you avoid this, is to train your eye to see patterns over time in your KPIs:

>> Use a line chart and look for patterns over time.

Common shortcuts you should avoid…

Some shortcuts will lead you well astray of any place that is useful. You want to have smarter KPIs, performance measures and metrics, not dumber ones. So make sure you avoid very common shortcuts like these:

  • Don’t brainstorm KPIs! You end up with junk that isn’t even a real measure.
  • Don’t benchmark KPIs! You end up with KPIs that are important to someone else.
  • Don’t buy KPIs! You end up overwhelmed with too many choices, and often also with the problems of brainstorming and benchmarking.

They might look like shortcuts, but they end up being the long way to a place you didn’t even want to get to.

Remember, shortcuts don’t work forever!

Let these 5 shortcuts buy you some time, and build some momentum, toward getting the right measures with a proper performance measure methodology, like PuMP. Measuring performance isn’t a hoop we must jump through; it’s a feedback loop that connects our actions with the results we really want.

Brainstorming, benchmarking and buying KPIs are shortcuts to avoid even when you need smarter measures, fast.
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