Designing a Corporate KPI Community of Practice

by Stacey Barr

What separates organisations that get traction with their performance measurement from those that spin their wheels is the cross-organisational KPI Community of Practice.

Team of business people smiling ina boardroom. Credit: https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/jacoblund

A KPI Community of Practice is a group of representatives from the various business units across your organisation. These representatives are the leaders or facilitators or coordinators of performance measurement in their business unit.

The KPI Community of Practice is usually led by someone in a corporate role, such as the Chief Performance Officer or someone in the corporate strategy, planning and performance group. And their role in the Community of Practice is to unify, coordinate, support and learn how performance measurement happens across the entire organisation.

This group is essentially a mastermind. And with the power of them all working together, you can accelerate the progress your organisation makes in measuring what matters, and get heaps more buy-in right across the organisation too. There are so many benefits to a KPI Community of Practice:

  • Learnings about overcoming KPI struggles are more easily and widely shared.
  • Peer support can boost confidence and share the workload.
  • Ideas for measuring similar things can be shared where they’re needed.
  • The organisation won’t waste resources chasing different KPI methods, many of which may not even work.
  • The most powerful performance improvement initiatives can be planned and implemented across organisational boundaries.

The benefits list goes on… But for a KPI Community of Practice to work well, there are a range of conditions to strive for:

  1. Include volunteers only.
  2. Get their managers’ support.
  3. Meet regularly and routinely.
  4. Focus on supporting each other.
  5. Encourage cross-functional collaboration.
  6. Have a single approach to performance measurement.
  7. Train members in performance measurement.
  8. Train members in group facilitation.
  9. Celebrate successes, and failures.
  10. Share a plan for performance measurement implementation.
  11. Nurture the buy-in of members.

Let’s dive a little deeper into each of these conditions.

1: Include volunteers only.

You want your KPI Community of Practice to be positive and enthused and engaged. If they’re not, they could hold up progress with any cynicism or procrastination or resistance to new ideas.

I’ve worked with KPI Communities of Practice where some members were nominated by managers. But because their heart wasn’t in it, they didn’t participate in conversations, they didn’t share their experiences, they didn’t implement the chosen performance measurement approach. And everyone else had to make up for their lack of engagement with extra work and effort. Little wonder, but their engagement eventually waned too.

Asking for volunteers is the best way to be sure the people in the KPI Community of Practice are the people that want to be there.

2: Get their managers’ support.

For the KPI Community of Practice to do its best work, members need to be free to join in its activities. If their day jobs always take priority, the performance measurement work will always suffer.

Getting management support to make performance measurement part of “real work” is a challenge I hear about a lot in our Measure Up and PuMP communities, all around the world.  We can’t “bolt on” performance measurement – it has to be a priority higher than something else that eats up time. This means that KPI Community of Practice members often need to rescope their role and job responsibilities, and that needs management support.

Talk with managers to make it clear what the commitment involves and get their promise that this time will be freed in their KPI Community of Practice representatives’ schedules.

3: Meet regularly and routinely.

When a KPI Community of Practice meets regularly, it builds a powerful momentum for all the good performance measure development they are facilitating across the organisation. And that momentum becomes sustainable when there is some formality in the routine of how the KPI Community of Practice operates.

The leader of the KPI Community of Practice plays an important role here, in designing and managing its routines and schedules. But if it falls onto a person, rather than an organisational role, then it risks petering out. One of our largest PuMP organisations faced this challenge, when the KPI champion for their organisation left. The routine of a KPI Community of Practice had not been formalised, and it died before someone new could pick it up and run with it.

Connecting weekly is ideal, but certainly no less than monthly. It might be a half-day workshop, an in-person meeting or a quick online catch-up. The routine just needs to be formalised.

4: Focus on supporting each other.

That’s the mastermind concept that a KPI Community of Practice is built upon; sharing insights, learning from each other, solving problems together.

One of my clients invited me to share a few ideas as a guest on one of their online KPI Community of Practice meetings. It was so inspiring to hear how they shared their implementations with each other in short presentations, how they highlighted their recent learnings, and then had great discussion triggered by questions the other members wanted to ask. And they congratulated each other on progress, and celebrated the wins together.

Building mutual support into the KPI Community of Practice activities can start with a status check, followed by an open dialogue for everyone to reflect, then get to action planning to solve any problems or bring any great ideas to fruition.

5: Encourage cross-functional collaboration.

It can be a little scary facilitating a team through a performance measure implementation, alone. But with a KPI Community of Practice, it’s easy to team up with someone else who already “gets it”.

Some of the PuMP case study interviews I’ve done with our PuMP Community members has been with two colleagues who worked together through their PuMP implementation. You can hear the strength of their conviction and the joy for their successes is amplified because of their teamwork. And there’s even more power when the collaboration is across organisational silos: the power of organisational learning.

Regularly looking for opportunities to co-facilitate KPI implementation with a team is a good habit for a KPI Community of Practice to lock in place.

6: Have a single approach to performance measurement.

It’s so important that everyone in your KPI Community of Practice is pursuing the same vision for the organisation, in the same way. You’ll move faster and waste a lot less time with debates about how to choose a measure or what to include in a performance report.

In our quarterly webcasts, we constantly hear about how many organisations still have ad hoc or mixed approaches to performance measurement. Like OKRs, Balanced Scorecard, PuMP, regulatory or industry KPI frameworks, and more – all competing with and contradicting each other. And we hear how these mixed approaches confuse and disillusion employees and limits the progress anyone can make with choosing, implementing and using meaningful KPIs.

Which performance measurement method will your KPI Community of Practice focus on? How could they promote this across the organisation? How can they get endorsement for it, from senior leaders?

7: Train members in performance measurement.

Your KPI Community of Practice is the centre for expertise and mastery in performance measurement for your organisation. Without structured training, it will take many times longer to build this expertise and mastery.

Virtually all the Measures Teams I’ve worked with have started out attending our PuMP Performance Measure Blueprint Workshop. Some even continue their development through more advanced PuMP Facilitator training. We find that the more people in a KPI Community of Practice that get the same training, the easier it is for them to collaborate, the faster it is for them to implement, and the sooner their organisation really starts to feel the power of meaningful measurement.

But the point is, don’t assume they have the performance measurement knowledge they need. Experience shows this is a bad assumption to make.

8: Train members in group facilitation.

The people in your KPI Community of Practice will spend a lot of their time leading teams in their business unit to develop and use better measures. They do need KPI mastery, but they also need to understand and lead team dynamics.

Leading team dynamics isn’t just about taking people through an agenda. It’s about creating a safe environment for participation, keeping dialogue and action on purpose, nipping conflicts in the bud, and helping the team make collective decisions. For example, there are too many times I’ve witnessed managers taking over the decision making in KPI workshops, and everyone else staying quietly in disagreement.

Put group facilitation and team dynamics on the training plan for KPI Community of Practice members. And they’ll get much more buy-in from their colleagues as a result.

9: Celebrate successes, and failures.

Your Measures Team, like any other group of people in your organisation, will find their motivation wane unless they get some intrinsic value from being a part of performance measurement.

Many of the organisations I’ve trained or facilitated with PuMP still have the legacy of measurement for judgement. That means that when the numbers aren’t good enough, people are blamed or held accountable. But with PuMP, we believe measurement is for learning, and most learning comes from examining what makes the numbers not good enough. One of the best ways to make this the new normal is to celebrate both the successes and the failures.

Design a celebration routine into your KPI Community of Practice routines. Make it fun, but take it seriously.

10: Share a plan for performance measurement implementation.

For performance measurement implementation to be productive and to serve the entire organisation, it needs a plan. And the KPI Community of Practice is the ideal team to create and execute that plan.

Don’t let the KPI Community of Practice plod aimlessly along, or you’ll find your meetings turning into therapy sessions rather than powerful think-tanks that propel performance measurement forward. We find that team-level PuMP implementations, that are driven by organisational demand, is the backbone of an organisation-wide plan. But we’ve seen these run out of steam if there isn’t a strong framework linking it all together. Like a PuMP Results Map.

Consider creating something like a strategic plan for performance measurement on behalf of your organisation. Your entire KPI Community of Practice can participate, like they are the executive team for organisational performance measurement.

11: Nurture the buy-in of members.

No matter who is a member of your KPI Community of Practice, or how long they are able to be a member, their engagement is the fuel that will power the success of it.

Many of the tips above will help to grow member buy-in, but making all KPI Community of Practice activities rewarding and fun is also important. I think one area that I’ve fell short on, with my performance measurement facilitation, is connecting with each person. When we feel connected to each other, when we are ‘seen’ and understood and valued, it’s easier to buy into a group and its purpose.

Give your KPI Community of Practice members ownership of the approach to performance measurement that you’re taking, the way they work together, the way they document and coordinate their performance measurement work. That said, sometimes all they need is to have say, and be heard.

***

If you don’t have a KPI Community of Practice yet, give some serious thought to how you could get one started, using the tips in this article. If you do have a KPI Community of Practice, do any of these tips give you ideas to help them work better?

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