Do You Need a Tailored KPI Approach?

by Stacey Barr |

Yes, your organisation is unique. But don’t use a tailored KPI approach to find better measures; use a better KPI approach to create tailored measures.

Work in progress suit on mannequin with exposed stitching. Credit: wildpixel

Do you believe your organisation needs a KPI approach that’s tailored to its industry, its culture, or its particular uniqueness? Many people do. For example, it’s not unusual for prospective clients to ask me questions like these:

  • Will PuMP work in my industry?
  • Has PuMP been tested with other organisations like mine?
  • Can you tailor PuMP to suit what we believe will work best for our culture?
  • Do you have examples of how PuMP works with our strategy approach?

Understandably, they’re afraid to repeat all the bad experiences they’ve endured in the past, in a trail of failed quests to measure what matters. But a tailored KPI approach is almost never the solution.

Can you afford a tailored KPI approach?

Spending time and effort creating something tailored, when something proven already exists, is a luxury not many organisations can afford. It takes a long time to research, design, try out, evaluate and continually improve techniques to measure performance, until those techniques can measure performance excellently every time.

For example, it took me ten years, as my full-time day job, to develop PuMP so it can do this. Do you have the time to do the same? Unlikely. Imagine if you also believed that every other management process your organisation uses also must be tailored, like strategy design and project management and recruitment and IT. It’s unnecessary.

The right performance measurement approach works for everyone, everywhere, every time.

Measuring performance is like the scientific method: it is ‘meta’ to what we apply it to. A drug company wouldn’t waste time creating a tailored method to test hypotheses about a new drug’s efficacy. That’s because the scientific method is already established as the best approach to test hypotheses about almost anything, from aerospace to winemaking.

A KPI – or performance measurement – approach is a structured thinking process. It’s not a list of industry-specific KPIs, nor is it a set of tools for brainstorming and voting, nor is it an app that does it all for you. The right performance measurement approach helps you think more clearly and deliberately about:

  • what you’re trying to change,
  • how you can quantify that change to measure it, and
  • how to use those quantitative measures to improve your decisions and actions and create that change.

The right KPI approach is the process, and the KPIs themselves and the insights you get from them are what gets produced.

It’s not the KPI approach you should tailor, it’s the KPIs.

Over twenty years of implementing performance measurement in all sectors, widely varying industries, and cultures of all kinds around the world, I’ve never needed to modify any of PuMP to make it work better for any individual client. In the first few years of that experience, I was hyper-concerned that I might need to tailor PuMP to each client, but it never needed to happen.

Some of our clients, after their PuMP training, decided to omit or modify parts of it to ‘better suit’ their organisation. A few have written to me about this over the years, because they realised that ‘tailoring’ it makes things worse, not better. This has happened so often that one of the memes of the PuMP Community has become ‘trust the process’.

When you do trust the process of a proven KPI approach, you maximise your power to create and bring to life the KPIs that suit your organisation best of all. The right KPI approach helps you create the set of KPIs that fit what your organisation needs now, like a professionally tailored suit.

Don’t use a tailored KPI approach to find better measures; use a better KPI approach to create tailored measures. [tweet this]


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