How to Get More KPI Credibility

by Stacey Barr |

It could be argued that an expert is really anyone who knows more about a subject than you do. And it’s likely that you could be the KPI expert in your organisation or business.

Often my clients ask me to work with them because someone external to the organisation will have more credibility in performance measurement than they do. What exactly does externality have to do with credibility? Not much, really. I know some very clever and experienced performance measurement professional who are still employed in an organisaton or business.

This subjective denial of internal credibility is a real problem, but it has some practical solutions.

Take the time to learn about the approaches of performance measure specialists like Dean Spitzer, David Parmenter, Pf Andy Neely, Gary Cokins, Dr Bob Frost, yours truly, and others.

Understand how they differ, what they do, what they don’t do, and how they align with your own beliefs and experiences with performance measurement.

Arrive at an informed opinion about whether you believe Balanced Scorecard is a performance measurement methodology, about how Lean and Six Sigma and business excellence frameworks (like Baldrige, ABEF and EFQM) relate to measurement.

Use a consistent terminology.

Sound like you know what you’re talking about by at least being consistent in the way you name things. What are your definitions of terms like KPI, performance indicator, performance measure, performance metric, goal, objective, strategy, target, and so on?

Don’t confuse people by being inconsistent, but also don’t delude them into believing your definitions are the one true way, either.

Tell war stories.

Your experience and the experiences of others make for fantastic learning props, and gentle ways to show people there’s a better way.

Collect stories that your audience can relate to, that parallel their own experiences. Collect them continuously and store them for easy searching.

I have a database where I capture quotes and stories from my own experiences and from what other share with me, that relate to measurement. I add tags to help me find them later – tags like buy-in, goals, targets, bad measures, good measures, data, decision making. Here’s the first one I captured (years ago):

“A man sells bark as a cure for AIDS. He pounds it up, mixes it with water and tells his patients to take it for 6 days. He knows it works because he doesn’t see the patients again.” — Sister Rose Bernard,

Develop a good bedside manner.

Your attitude and beliefs seep into your body language, your words and your actions. People see them, and it influences how much they trust your motives. So if you want them to trust your leadership in performance measurement, you need to have authentically constructive attitudes and beliefs:

“They should know better” versus “They don’t see it from this angle yet”

  • “It’s their job to do this” versus “It’s my job to help them”
  • “I’m sick of fighting the same uphill battle” versus “I obviously need to practice finding new ways”
  • “They only want measures to cover their bums” versus “I need to show them how much more powerful they can feel with the right information”

Show a proven track record

Even with just a few small projects where you’ve successfully created, implemented and used some good KPIs, you can show you know your stuff.

But you really ought to document these projects. Write them up as case studies. Even the ones that suck, because often they will demonstrate that you can learn, too.

I document case studies with my clients by interviewing them, and getting the interviews transcribed. A past colleague of mine, Vanessa, documented Six Sigma projects in a scrapbook format, with photos and commentary.

Have a little bit of pizzazz

Marketing is essentially the packaging of a message with a call to action. If you want people to do something, particularly when they don’t know they should do it, you need to do some marketing.

Not the shonky, used-car salesman style of marketing. It’s more subtle and respectful than that. But you still need to design your message and get it out there.

One of my messages is that our struggles with performance measurement are caused by a few very bad habits. My call to action is take a closer look at your performance measurement process and start to change those bad habits. Or sometimes the call to action is to read more and register for an upcoming PuMP Blueprint Workshop!


Use this list as a framework to stocktake your current credibility triggers, and choose one per fortnight to practice and improve.

Upcoming KPI Training

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