7 Ways to Create Urgency for KPIs

July 17, 2012 by Stacey Barr

Most agree that performance measurement is very important. But it fails to get implemented often because it’s not seen as urgent. So sometimes, your starting point needs to be to create that urgency, to set the platform on fire.

burning oil platformThen pull, don’t push. That’s the underlying premise of creating a sense of urgency for your performance measurement program. Pull people toward it by compelling them, don’t push them into it by shoving. Here are seven tips to help you do that pulling:

Tip #1: Set a deadline for when performance measures must be designed, implemented and/or reported.

Making up deadlines can feel inauthentic, like you’re creating false urgency. But who said that deadlines have to be imposed by someone else? Whenever you set a deadline, it has a magically magnetic effect on people’s attention and focus. Without deadlines, everything turns into custard (thick, slow moving, and stupefying).

Tip #2: Create playful competition between Measures Teams to produce the fewest and most powerful measures for their processes.

People generally love playing games. One of my customers, Greg, exploited this little factoid by creating a newsletter to share updates about his organisation’s performance measurement program. “The Daily Measure” it was called, and it reported the progress of each department on a graph that suggested a competition was afoot to be the first to finish.

Tip #3: Create a very big “why” for measuring performance.

This probably should be Tip #1 because without it, you risk creating false urgency that later morphs into cynicism. You won’t ever get people feeling a true pull toward performance measurement without them holding a very solid understanding of why it’s so important to do. So, why is performance measurement so important to do in your business?

Tip #4: Make the benefits of measurement sensory-rich.

If you’re going to paint a picture for people about the benefits of measuring performance, paint more than a picture. Make it sensory-rich. Use words that engage all the senses, to make it easy for people to create a very detailed and life-like scenario inside their heads about what good measurement will create for them. Ditch the weasel words and management-speak. Think about WIIFM.

Tip #5: Put limits or constraints on how or what people can measure.

This might sound a bit counter-productive. But it’s very true that when something is in limited supply, everyone wants it. Limit the help you will give people (you can have me for just 2 hours). Limit when you are available to help (here are 2 times I am available for you). Limit how many measures people are allowed to create (no team can have more than 3 performance measures). Limits make things simpler, too.

Tip #6: Excite people by showing them quick wins.

Complacency can be the result of lack of inspiration. You can inspire people to measure performance by showing them real examples of how measures have transformed other teams’ performance and morale. Always see every performance measurement opportunity you get as a case study to document, learn from, celebrate and share.

Tip #7: Highlight the crisis that lurks in the shadow of ignorance.

While not everyone is particularly motivated by fear, sometimes it truly is the kick in the pants we need to get to task. A lot of crises sneak up on us because we didn’t have our finger on the pulse (that is, we weren’t measuring what mattered). Data that reveals recurring customer complaints, the real cost of rework, or the dead time that blows out cycle times can be a good starting point to spotlight an impending crisis and need for performance improvement (and therefore measurement).

TAKE ACTION: Where could you inject a bit of urgency for better performance measurement into your business or organisation? Start experimenting with any or all of the 7 tips to get started.

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  1. Roni says:

    Dear Stacey
    I’m not sure what you mean by “sensory-rich”???
    Can you please give a few examples?

  2. Stacey Barr says:

    Roni, “sensory rich” language means using words that vividly describe a concept. Sensory rich words describe what you see, hear and feel. They are adjectives and adverbs mostly, but sometimes even better nouns and verbs can make something more sensory-rich. The idea is to move away from abstract concepts.

    Here are some examples:

    1) I groom dogs.
    Sensory-rich: I transform your grubby, tangled, outdoor-banished mutt into a clean, silky-soft and glossy pooch you just can’t wait to cuddle.

    2) Enhance the customer experience.
    Sensory-rich: Customers will be amazed at how quickly we solve their problems, and how quickly they stop feeling stressed about those problems.

    3) Reduce degredation of the landscape.
    Sensory-rich: The fragile soils of ridges and escarpments and valuable farming land are protected from unnatural erosion and loss of topsoil.

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