Five Steps to Find The Right Measures

June 3, 2009 by Stacey Barr

How to find the right measures is the most asked question in the field of performance measurement. And it’s little wonder, because the more meaningful measures track outcomes which tend to be less tangible than the traditional things we’ve measured, like how many widgets we produced.

How do you translate results so intangible as employee morale or service quality or corporate image into solid, robust measures?

measure design

The framework described here is an excerpt of Step 3 of the PuMP® Performance Measure Blueprint, which provides a systematic approach for taking almost all of the pain out of the challenge of finding the right measures.

STEP 1: Begin with the end in mind.

Performance measures are objective comparisons that provide evidence of an important performance outcome. It is of the utmost importance to decide which outcomes are most worth tracking right now. As the first step in deciding how to measure an outcome, write down what the outcome is, what the difference is you are trying to create (and thus want to track using a measure). Focus on one outcome at a time.

STEP 2: Be sensory specific.

When you have the end in mind, you are ready to get a handle on what specifically about your outcome you will measure. This is where you take care in your choice of words to describe the outcome as concretely as possible. Use “sensory” language – the language that describes what you and others would see, hear, feel, do, taste or smell if your outcome was happening now. Avoid those inert words that we so often see in our goal and objective statements, such as: efficient, effective, reliable, sustainable and quality.

STEP 3: Check the bigger picture.

Check the bigger picture for what could happen if you measure your outcome. What level of control do you have over achieving it? What might the unintended consequences of measuring the outcome be (both the positive and the negative)? What behaviour would the measures drive? Which other areas of performance might be sabotaged or limited? This is your first chance to change your mind about what’s most worth measuring.

STEP 4: What’s the evidence?

Now, get ultra specific and figure out what the potential measures are that could let you (and everyone else) know that the outcome is being achieved. For each of your sensory rich statements from step 2, what could you count to tell you the extent to which it is occurring? Which of these potential measures would be the optimal balance between objectivity and feasibility?

STEP 5: Name the measure.

Naming your performance measures marks the point at which you know exactly what you will be measuring. Be succinct and informative and deliberate, as you need to be able to continually and easily identify each measure as it moves through the steps of being brought to life and being used in decision making.

Create your own measure design template based on these 5 steps (or save time and use mine, which includes examples and more detailed instructions, in the PuMP Blueprint Online Program or the PuMP Blueprint Workshop). Now use your measure design template to start designing measures for the tricky goals and objectives and results and outcomes you’ve struggled to measure thus far. Practice makes perfect!


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  1. Mohammed Hussain Shah says:

    Dear Stacey,

    I always wondered about the measurement of performance of bussiness entities from my own point of view as a Finance Manager. The subjective appraisals like employee evaluation , corporate image are all the more frustrating for finance professionals who measure things in numbers.

    When I got this site KPI’s started getting closer and easier. This site has treasures of knowledge and real life experiences. The presenations make it easier for grasping the material.

    I wish the author a success in her endeavours.

    Kind regards,

  2. The key to getting the right measure or KPI is the harmonization of plans, processes, information, resource decisions, actions, results, and analyses to support key organization-wide goals. Integration, in short. Effective integration goes beyond alignment and is achieved when the individual components of a performance management system operates as a fully interconnected unit. The management of any organization can be improved if the organization is considered a series of inter-related systems. The systems approach suggests that internal management systems are both intra-related and inter-related with the environment of the organization, and performance measurements should highly consider the inter/intra-relationships of systems, processes and departments within the organization.


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