How to Give Your Performance Measures Meaningful Names

January 7, 2014 by Stacey Barr

If you don’t take care in naming your performance measures, you end up with problems like different measures having the same name, the same measure having different names, and people getting confused about what the measure is about. That’s messy. So don’t take naming your measures too lightly.

The way you write your measure, or articulate it or describe it, is of paramount importance before you start down the path of getting data and computing the measure values.

But naming your measure is also very important. Don’t take for granted that the one-word nickname you’ve come up with is going to have any meaning at all for other users of the measure.

And that really suggests the first tip:

KPI Naming Tip #1: Use two to five words to name your measures.

A single word is rarely enough. Profit isn’t even a good name for a measure. Net Profit, Gross Profit, Profit Before Interest & Tax (or PBIT) are all better names because they don’t have you making any assumptions about the type of profit being measured.

KPI Naming Tip #2: Tightly match the name to exactly what you are measuring.

If you want to measure the average level of pride that your employees feel in working for your organisation, then don’t call the measure Employee Engagement. It’s not engagement, it’s pride. Better names would be Employee Pride Score or Employee Pride Rating.

KPI Naming Tip #3: Keep it unique.

You might feasibly have two measures called Customer Satisfaction Rating, where one of the measures tracks satisfaction with their most recent purchase, for customers who actively purchased during the current month, and the other measure tracks quarterly overall satisfaction of the entire customer base. A better naming strategy would be Customer Satisfaction With Latest Purchase for the first measure, and Overall Customer Satisfaction for the second.

KPI Naming Tip #4: Have some fun?

I’m not really in one camp or the other here, but certainly you can increase the engagement people have in the measures they use by making their names fun. A client of mine wanted to measure the number of complaints her team was handling each month, and they agreed to call the measure Not Happy Jan. It was named after a famous line in a TV commercial.

TAKE ACTION:

Do you have some funky or fun measure names that follow these tips? Share your measure names and inspire others!

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  1. Rodney Miller says:

    You requested unique metric names… GAS… we implemented this, as a metric for moral and implementation of our team philosophy. There are blue chip players in every sport, but they only perform when they Give A Shit (GAS). This is not a trending metric, as much as a pts system to our accomplishments. It’s not a bad thing to have GAS, in fact, GAS when applied in meaningful way can fuel the best conversations for process improvements. We suffer from low octane at times, but GAS during a team meeting seems to breakdown barriers and liven things up a bit…. sophomoric… yes…. but effective. I have GAS is motto for improvement.

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Rodney, this is a great example of a measure name that powerfully relates to its purpose, and communicates a tonne before you even know how it’s quantified. Nice one!

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