How To Make Measuring A Little Bit Sexier

November 3, 2008 by Stacey Barr

Question: What words do people use to describe performance measurement? Answer: Boring. Dull. Bureaucratic. Effort. Nerdy. Challenging. Threatening. Irrelevant. Failure. Fad.

Words we’d rather hear describing measurement: Curious. Insightful. Relieving. Motivating. Focusing. Priorities. Improvement. Success. Achievement.

For many reasons, people are more likely going to have negative feelings about measuring performance. And before you’re going to win their enthusiasm to take measuring performance seriously, you have to spin those feelings around.

A great way to do that is to give them a very different experience of what measuring performance is all about. And a successful “run on the board” can do just that.

Forget about trying to convince everyone that measurement is important. Forget about telling people their current measures suck. Forget about designing that corporate-wide, top-down, aligned-to-strategy measurement framework. Think small, think fast, think impact!

Somewhere in your organisation you’ll be able to find an opportunity to put practical performance measures to work to make a fast impact. You might already know of one manager who needs no convincing that measuring matters. Or maybe you know of a recurring problem one team has, that everyone knows about, like the maintenance team taking too long, or the IT team handling help desk calls badly. Think laterally about where an opportunity might be.

Then go and talk to the people who own that opportunity. Ask them if they’d appreciate some help to solve the problem, to get to the bottom of it and nail it once and for all. Don’t ask them if they need some performance measures! Yes, you’ll create and use a few performance measures to help them fix the problem, but the emphasis has to be on solving the problem.

It’s going to be easier for you if the people who own the opportunity are keen. If not, keep looking for other opportunities. You’re after a small, fast run on the board that shows the impact that comes from using measures to assess, diagnose and fix problems people don’t want to have.

When you find your opportunity, treat it like you would a small, pilot project. Focus on a single result you will improve, and schedule it such that inside of 2 or 3 months, you’ve created a few useful measures, and used those measures to diagnose the problem, to find a solution to the problem, and so show improvement in the end result.

And there’s one more thing, something wierdly powerful. Write up the project as a story. No, no, no – don’t use your project documentation template! Create something more akin to a scrapbook, with photos, quotes, anecdotes, learnings, mistakes, funny antics. Make it as human as possible.

And show and tell this story to anyone to whom you’d like to give a different experience of measuring performance.


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