The Secret To Get Buy-In To Performance Measurement

by Stacey Barr |

For over a year Michelle and the Strategy Team worked to find a set of performance measures their Executive Directors would accept. The Executive Directors hated those measures. Could the Strategy Team ever come up with measures their leaders would accept?

For someone to buy-in and have ownership of performance measures, they have to be personally part of the dialogue. Credit: Tero Vesalainen

The Executive Directors complained that the measures were all too academic, measured things well outside their control and rejected them altogether. But with the help of some external pressure to get their Corporate Plan measured, the Executive Directors eventually gave approval to bring in a consultant (yours truly) to facilitate them to craft their own suite of performance measures.

During the workshop, we systematically discussed each of the Corporate Goals and what the important results were that they would see if the Goals were successfully achieved. We discussed the evidence of those results and the Executive Directors suggested potential measures, evaluated them, and then chose between one and three measures for each Goal.

The measures the Executive Directors selected were very, very similar to the measures that Michelle and the Strategy Team had been recommending for the past year!

What happened? I certainly didn’t have any magical influence over the Executive Directors’ choice of measures. Something else was going on, and that “something else” is the secret to buy-in and engagement in performance measurement:

For someone to buy-in and have ownership of performance measures, they have to be personally and actively part of the dialogue that designs, discusses and decides on those measures.

Don’t give people measures. Give them time and space to discuss the real meaning of the results they are to achieve, and to design and select the measures they believe are the most meaningful and feasible.

The sophistication of your performance measures is not nearly as important as people’s ownership of them. You can improve the sophistication when people have ownership, but it’s much harder to increase ownership of measures that they didn’t take a hand in creating.


Rather than putting effort into selling a suite of measures, put that same effort into involving people in a workshop to design their own measures. There is one simple but very transformational tool I can suggest to help you do this: The PuMP Measure Design Technique, which will help you design and run a measure design workshop just like the one I ran for the Executive Directors in this story. You can learn this technique, along with the complete set of performance measurement techniques, in the PuMP Blueprint Online Program or the PuMP Blueprint Workshop.

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  1. Ricardo Lopez says:

    I agree with what you mention in your article completely. I have worked for a Shared Service Center for several years in which we started suggesting the KPI which we thought were sufficient and important, but we had to go through a new selection of KPI’s given by the clients which were not different to those proposed by us. It is not a sale but a buy-in and the client has to be involved. A very good article.

  2. Yuvarajah says:

    Hi Stacey,

    Where were you when I needed? 🙂

    Let me play the devils’ advocate/cynic.

    How do you know for certain that it was the “involvment” that did the trick in turning “hate into love” ?. These were, after all, similar measures that a year ago, they hated and accused as academic, outside their control and rejected. I know you must have made an impact, but how do you know for sure?.

    You mentioned, “with little external pressure”. Could this have been the secret for the enlightenment or should I say, the inevitable “forced-upon”.

    Please share what or where to seek this little pressure valve help. I am sure there are many out there who could use it.

    Not to takeaway the nuggets your have given, I am in full agreement that nothing is more powerful than to get people involved in their own learning, goal setting and tracking progress. That’s the spirit and what “inclusiveness” is all about. Sadly, people in leadership throw around their weight and talk of accountability for results, yet stifle the very fundamental drivers to motivating and managing performance.

    Well, your article seem to signal that times are fast changing. Top leadership must either buy-in or you get “pressured-in”.


  3. Stacey Barr says:

    Thanks Ricardo and Yuvarajah for your comments.

    Yuva, I’m not drawing the conclusion about involvement being the real reason for the sudden buy-in from this single example alone. It’s happened dozens – actually probably more like hundreds – of times in my experience. And then there’s the experiences reported to me by others doing the same thing (which removes the effect of the “little external pressure”).

    Granted, I don’t have a well research study to support this claim that involvement is the key driver of buy-in, but I am a firm believer in learning from experience and paying attention to the patterns that keep repeating.

    All the best in your own performance measurement experiences!

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