How Long Does It Take To Master KPIs?

by Stacey Barr

Embedding good KPI practice – and mastering the art and science of measuring what matters to better achieve what matters – isn’t a trivial task. It takes time to move from struggle to success, because it takes time to build mastery.

By and large, people monstrously underestimate the time it takes to master performance measurement and master KPIs. Finding good KPIs isn’t like grocery shopping. It’s not a quick trip to the KPI store, grab what you need, and then you’re done.

Finding good KPIs is much more like a complete health and fitness regime – it includes an overarching philosophy, a set of principles and intentions, a structured approach, and disciplined implementation.

And that really does take time. It takes time to learn and test, to practice and deploy, and to integrate and master. This means we have three stages to roll out a KPI approach: Pilot, Practice and Perform.

These three stages are essential if you want to succeed; if you want KPIs that reliably and routinely drive performance improvement. There’s no shortcut.

Stage 1: Pilot

The first step to ending your KPI struggles is to choose a true KPI or performance measurement methodology. Learn it, and test it out with a few small-scoped implementations.

The keys to success at the Pilot stage are these:

  • follow the approach, don’t modify it
  • learn the approach, don’t master it
  • invite volunteers to participate, don’t mandate it
  • test the approach, don’t roll it out

The Pilot stage will be the first 6 months. You can get a big return on investment from your KPI approach, even in this Pilot stage. It will produce the first few ripples of new awareness and interest in proper performance measurement.

Stage 2: Practice

After the Pilot stage, you begin to implement a few full implementations of the KPI approach. You can start at the strategic level and cascade it into a few business units. You’re doing enough implementation here to get the approach adopted as the one approach everyone should use.

The keys to success at the Practice stage are these:

  • link the KPI approach to your approaches for strategy design, execution, reporting, project management and improvement
  • engage and train people in the KPI approach before they implement it
  • again, follow the approach, don’t modify it

The Practice stage will be years 1 and 2. In this time, you’ll notice the performance culture shifting, you’ll see a few more targets being achieved and you’ll find more and more people are asking how they can adopt the new KPI approach too.

Stage 3: Perform

When the KPI approach has been practiced enough to be comfortable, and it’s in practice in enough of your organisation, it’s time to embed it. It will integrated and accepted without question. And as it is mastered, it is tailored to fit your organisation more tightly.

The keys to success at the Perform stage are these:

  • formalise the approach so it’s integrated into your management processes and systems
  • pay attention to how the approach is working e.g. are goals being achieved sooner and with less effort?
  • any tailoring you make to the approach should be tested first to be sure it improves the implementation and results

The Perform stage will be years 3 to 5. In this time, you’ll see performance improvements and achievement of goals all around the organisation. Just about everything will feel easier and smoother, and will produce better results.

Five years?! We don’t have the time for that!

Sure you do.

Think about the time your organisation has already spent struggling with KPIs, going around in circles trying to find the right ones, failing again and again to get buy-in to measuring performance, collecting too much data that isn’t what you need.

All that wasted time is only going to continue if you hold on to the belief that you don’t have time for a proper approach to KPIs. So, of course you have the time – you’re already wasting more of it than you need.

The cold, hard truth about KPI mastery is that it takes several years to achieve it.
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How long has your organisation been struggling with KPIs? How much longer do you think it is willing to keep struggling?

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