5 Steps to Win Executive Support for KPIs

by Stacey Barr |

Particularly in larger organisations, not much organisation-wide change can happen (and stick) without executive support. Implementing a new performance measurement approach is particularly hard without executive support. But there is a way to win executive support for KPIs. A way that consistently works…

People – even executives – almost always need to have an emotional experience before they will make a change. So you can’t go charging into the monthly Executive Meeting with a formal presentation about the 21 step KPI methodology you want them to endorse. Yaaaawn.

But you can create this emotional experience, triggering surprise, frustration, hope and curiosity, with four simple steps. These are the steps that Gay and Ann, two colleagues who attended one of my PuMP workshops, followed to win the support of their executive team.

Step 1: Learn and be confident to describe the new performance measurement approach you want them to support.

Gay and Ann could see that their organisation needed a better approach to measuring performance. Their organisation needs to be publicly accountable, being in the local government sector, and they weren’t happy with measures available to do that. They decided to learn PuMP, so they could recommend to their Executive Team a more deliberate approach to measuring performance.

Most organisations don’t really have a deliberate approach to performance measurement: what they do is ad hoc. (Read the transcript from Lesson 1 in the PuMP Primer Webinar Series for more discussion about this.)

Step 2: Ask questions that raise awareness of the ad hoc approach.

The next step that Gay and Ann took with their Executive Team was to invite them to each fill out the PuMP Diagnostic. This tool asks people to evaluate where their organisation sits on a sliding scale from poor performance measurement practice, to excellent practice.

Gay collated the PuMP Diagnostic responses and prepared an analysis to take to the next Executive Meeting.

Step 3: Start the discussion about measurement from where you are now, not where you want to be.

When Gay and Ann got to the Executive Meeting, they didn’t start presenting PuMP. Here’s what they did:

“We opened the meeting with the exercise you did with us at the workshop – and got them writing what they felt were the problems with our current KPI and performance measurement situation.

And just like in the workshop, most of the issues were on the right hand side and bottom left  – indicating that actually using our measures in any way, let alone for improvement initiatives, is not even on the radar for us yet!! Which was a bit of a wake-up call and had them sitting up and paying attention.

To reinforce the struggles that everyone could now see, blatantly captured in front of them in the above exercise, Gay and Ann presented their analysis of the PuMP Diagnostic each of the executives was asked to fill out.

“[It] illustrated to them just how inconsistent their understanding of how things actually are, is! Diagnostic 1 was mostly around 7 [out of 10] – and not such a worry. However, from Diagnostic 2 onward it was all over the place. And they pretty much indicated to themselves that things which previously hadn’t even been clearly articulated before, need some serious – and deliberate – attention.”

Now the executives could understand why Gay and Ann wanted to suggest a change to the organisation’s performance measurement approach. Now they were feeling surprised and curious. Now they would be able to look at a suggested change, and have a context for considering it.

Gay and Ann made sure the executives had the ‘why’ before they offered the ‘what’.

Step 4: Introduce the new performance measurement approach by linking it to the newly revealed struggles.

Ann then stepped the executives through PuMP, not in detail but just enough that it became clear that there are deliberate techniques that could directly fix their performance measurement struggles.

“… we highlighted a few key things from the course book and case study as we went to highlight various points or to answer questions… And the Results Map really hit a home run – they all saw immediate value in that – and connected it immediately to what they’re trying to do with Service Reviews – and the imminent implementation of business plans at the department level.”

You don’t need to share all the ins and outs of your chosen performance measurement methodology – just a few practical bits and pieces that speak straight to the struggles they’ve just realised they have. Just as Gay says:

“We think the PuMP Methodology is so well thought out – and makes logical sense – that it presents as the most obvious solution when you realise how ad hoc you are!

Step 5: Ask for a commitment to support a pilot test of your recommended performance measurement methodology.

After you’ve given your executives hope that there’s a neat and deliberate solution to their performance measurement struggles, you want to ask for something that they can say ‘yes’ too, with confidence and hope and realistic expectations. At the PuMP workshops, we suggest that this ‘something’ be a PuMP Pilot.

This is a focused and fast implementation of PuMP to test and tune how it works for your organisation. And this is what Gay and Ann asked of their Executive Team: to consider where the best place would be for a PuMP Pilot.

And there you have it! An engaging, respectful, fun and proven approach to invite your executives to support a new performance measurement approach. It’s worked for Gay and Ann, and for lots of other students from the PuMP Blueprint Workshop, who took the time to actually try it!


Have you had success with this or another approach to winning the support of executives to improve your organisation’s performance measurement approach?


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