#75 KPIs Should Make You Feel Uncomfortable!

August 3, 2011 by Stacey Barr

If your KPIs or performance measures aren’t pushing you outside your comfort zone, then they’re wasting everyone’s time.

If you only measure what you already know you can achieve, those measures or KPIs probably won’t take you any further. They’re just confirming that things are as you expect. They’re not pushing you to try harder, think smarter or reach higher.

man jumping over hurdleEver since I was 14 years old, running has been my favourite sport. Over the first 26 years, I managed to get my 10km time down from 60 minutes to 54 minutes (I was a “jogger”). But over the last 2 years, my 10km time has gone from 54 minutes down to 45 minutes. Even though I have always measured my running performance and strived to improve it, I had to train harder and smarter to accomplish the bigger improvement over the last 2 years and graduate from “jogger” to “runner”.

Some of my training runs over these 2 years have pushed me to the point of almost throwing up. Many of my training runs have pushed me beyond my comfort zone, to a point where I’ve really had to talk myself into continuing. But that’s how you get stronger and fitter and faster – by going outside your comfort zone. I didn’t do that during the first 26 years – I just went out and jogged about the same distance and speed each time.

It’s really no different in business. If you want better results, you have to get better at producing those results. Too many people think they can buy better performance with a bigger budget, or more staff, or better resources. But the only way to truly improve performance, to get better results that will last, is to go outside your comfort zone and train yourself to work harder, think smarter and reach higher.

I’m not trying to contradict the “work smarter, not harder” mantra, either. It’s just that there IS a certain amount of effort you have to invest before you can work smarter, to make true change happen and stick. It will feel stressful, but stress is what makes you stronger, as long as you don’t go overboard with the stress.

Whatever it is you’re measuring (customer satisfaction, cycle time, costs, revenue, rework, error rates, widgets per day, whatever), are you measuring it to prove what you are already doing, or to strive for better, even if you’re not yet sure what it will take to get better?

When you push outside your comfort zone (sensibly), you get stronger, you get more capable. And a higher level of performance becomes the new norm. Your comfort zone is bigger. That’s what I think the real benefit of KPIs and performance measures is: to inspire us to keep expanding our comfort zones so we continually improve the results we want most.

TAKE ACTION: Stocktake your existing suite of performance measures or KPIs and honestly appraise which ones are inspiring you to expand your comfort zone and achieve more, and which ones have you aiming for where you already are.

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