A Performance Measurement Mastery Checklist

June 17, 2014 by Stacey Barr

Whether you’re an executive looking for the right person to lead your corporate performance measure implementation, or you’re a strategy or performance professional wanting to position yourself as a performance measurement expert, you need to understand what mastery in the field of performance measurement looks like. You need to be able to recognise someone who possesses this mastery.

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Mastery is when your mind and body act as one in performing a skill, so you are free to focus on the bigger picture surrounding your application of that skill.

To me, mastery in performance measurement looks like this:

  1. When you consider how to measure a goal, you immediately detect whether the goal is measurable in the first place; you can tell whether it’s results-oriented, non-weasely, single-focus, strategically important and sensible.
  2. Without trying, you can quickly list the observable evidence that would convince you and others that a goal or result has been achieved.
  3. When you convert evidence into performance measures, you instinctively write the measure as a quantification of that evidence, following the recipe for a good measure.
  4. When you look at a well written measure, you can see it’s formula and data requirements, possibly arranged in a spreadsheet in your mind.
  5. When you plan a measurement project, you don’t even have to think about the necessary steps that need to be scheduled, and how long to allow for them. You’ve done it plenty of times and you know how it works.
  6. Leading a team of novices in measurement is a breeze for you. You know how to get them ready and help them feel confident to make contributions, and facilitate their learning and application to create great measures.
  7. You have a performance measurement methodology you know back-to-front and inside-out, and have hundreds or thousands of hours practicing it. You even have your own unique spin on how you explain and facilitate it, and your own additions that you’ve tested and improved over several years.
  8. You can improvise at a moment’s notice to help a team or person with any challenge or question they have about measurement.
  9. If someone gives you the data for a dozen or two performance measures, you can give back to them a well designed dashboard in a day’s effort, following the current best thinking on dashboard design.
  10. You understand that statistical thinking is even more important than knowing some statistical techniques, and you can help your colleagues understand the difference and why it’s important.
  11. You can produce a wide range of statistical summaries with technical rigour, knowing when and why to use each one, and when and why not to (such as averages, medians, modes, line charts, scatter plots, bar charts, histograms, Pareto charts, XmR charts, linear regression, modelling and forecasting).
  12. You never tell people what to measure – you do not work in the ‘content’, you work in the ‘process’ of measurement, as a leader rather than as an advisor.
  13. To help your colleagues use their performance measures to drive improvement, you can facilitate them through the steps of identifying the relevant business processes, flowcharting and analysing those processes, identifying causes or constraints that hold performance back, and then redesigning the processes until the performance measures show improvement.

When these skills become automatic, you are free to focus on the bigger picture of performance measurement, such as the following:

  • Do these measures feel like the right things to focus on, given the values and priorities of the company?
  • Even though people are participating, what concerns might they be feeling internally?
  • What will this organisation look and feel like when these measures are alive and being used on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?
  • What obstacles or challenges are likely to present as these measures get implemented?
  • Who else should be involved, to help the measures be successfully implemented and used?
  • How much should I push or guide this team toward better or more sophisticated measures, without damaging their buy-in and ownership of the measures?
  • Does this team really understand their priorities, or are they just trying to jump through the hoops? Are they trying to measure too soon?
  • Is this discussion about one goal and its measures going in circles because of interpersonal conflicts that are in the way of consensus, or that the goal means different things to different people?
  • What’s the best thing to say or ask or demonstrate at this moment, that will have the best chance of helping this executive appreciate the new idea about the dashboard design (or whatever the new idea is)?
  • What does each person really want from this measurement project, that they might not be able to say out loud?
  • Is this collection of goals and measures telling a sensible and compelling story of where the organisation should be going?
  • What’s the best thing I can do or say right now to help this person/these people realise they have more influence than they think they do over performance?

TAKE ACTION:

Would you add anything to the list of evidence that would convince you someone possessed performance measurement mastery?

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  1. Lovin’ it! Thanks Stacey for another great post. I think the only thing you could do to improve your list is to break them out by level of proficiency. When I create professional development plans for people I use a five point scale (with decimals allowed) for Novice, Beginner, Managed, Proficient, and Expert. I get that you were describing “expert” but I think it would be great to see it broken out by level (perhaps Padawan through Jedi Master?) so people can see where they are along the continuum.

    Nice post!

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Marty, I might take this to the level you describe at some point in the future. But I reckon that would be a task that would benefit greatly from collaboration among a bunch of Performance Measurement Masters (including you), to be sure it wasn’t just my personal fantasy!

  2. Mike Davidge says:

    Hi Stacey

    Wow, that’s an impressive list to master, not sure I can claim to be a Jedi Master then.

    You link to Stephen Few and I was introduced to him properly a couple of months go by another American James Smith. Now I have navigated to his website I can see it’s going to be a favourite.

    Jim has just published a book called ‘Meaningful graphs’ (available on Amazon) that is full of very practical advice for those who are constructing their graphs using Excel. Do check it out if you have time.

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