How to Handle the KPI Cynics

by Stacey Barr |

At a recent in-house PuMP Blueprint Workshop I ran for a client, one of the participants came up to me at the end of the 2 days and admitted that he’d come to the workshop very cynical and expecting to learn nothing new. He quickly went on to say that he experienced just the opposite and gave me a hug to say thanks!

If it was always that easy to turn the KPI cynics into KPI advocates, then the world would be a radically different place on account of all of us easily measuring exactly what mattered. But that ain’t the case, is it?

cynical woman

There are a few signs that your progress toward the right KPIs is being held up by people feeling cynical about the whole deal. Here are some of the things you might hear them say, and some tips for how to respond in a way that starts their journey toward KPI advocacy.

We’ve been doing okay without performance measures in the past, so why start now?

Rather than answering their question with a list of reasons to start measuring performance now, try a different tact. Challenge the assumption they’re making that the past was okay, or that okay is good enough today. Try something like this:

“I absolutely agree that we don’t want to change for change’s sake. We just don’t have time. But if we keep going the way we always have, it won’t stay good enough for long because as you know, the market is rapidly changing…”

The hidden agenda is that management are going to start hitting people over the head with the measures, demanding more from us, and cutting jobs.

There’s a bit of mind-reading going on here. Don’t bother trying to placate them with promises that their greatest fears are unfounded. You need to reframe that the measures are for them to use, not for the managers. Try something like this:

“Not if we beat them to it. Our plan is that the measures you guys come up with are for you to use to improve your processes and demonstrate objectively to management what support you need from them to achieve targets. You won’t be reporting the measures to management for them to use. You’ll be engaging them in a discussion about how performance improvement will happen.”

We have “real work” to do.

Poor time management isn’t the problem here. And better time management is not the solution. The problem is the belief that performance measurement isn’t real work. Raise this assumption and explore its implications. Try something like this:

“If performance measurement isn’t part of our real work, then that implies that checking if what we’re doing is adding value isn’t part of our real work. If we don’t believe we’re responsible for adding value through our work, what are we getting paid for exactly?”

Listen out for the objections that your managers and colleagues and staff offer up against performance measurement. What assumptions are they making that you can raise, and through some genuine questions, test the validity of?

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Andrew Poh says:

    In life we need to be prepared all the time. Just like in war & peace, preparedness for war is the best defence for peace. Hence, as employees, no matter how we dislike change, ‘change’ will be the only constant. Hence, we ourselves need to be proactive and actively participate in preparing ourselves for all kinds of eventualities.

    The worse thing that can happen to anybody is that they remain static and is overwhelmed with change. Everything will change. If before it was like that, now it is going to be different! So is one going to rest on ones own laurels and be caught unprepared or are we going to prepare ourselves, even before changes occur.

    Today’s war is won without seeing the enemy!

  2. David Fuller says:

    I think I understand your comments on “hitting people over the head with the measures.” But I also hear a follow-up question to your suggested reply: if management doesn’t use the performance measures in my personal evaluation, what will they use to evaluate my contribution to the business?

  3. Stacey Barr says:

    Andrew, I truly agree with your philosophy about change. If we aim to keep performance the same, and think that doing nothing is the way to achieve that, then in actuality performance goes backwards. Nothing can stay the same without effort to battle all the other inevitable changes that impact our performance.

    Thanks for your comments.

    Smiles, Stacey.

Upcoming KPI Training

>> North America, Online Interactive, 6-10 February 2023 - SOLD OUT

>> Africa, Online Interactive, 27 February - 3 March 2023

>> UK & Europe, Online Interactive, 27 February - 3 March 2023

>> North America, In-Person, Calgary AB, 7-9 March 2023

>> Australia/NZ/Asia Pacific, Online Interactive, 15-16 & 20-22 March 2023

>> Africa, In-Person, Dubai UAE, 3-5 May 2023

>> Australia/NZ/Asia Pacific, In-Person, Wellington NZ, 9-11 May 2023

>> UK & Europe, Online Interactive, 22-26 May 2023

>> North America, Online Interactive, 29 May - 2 June 2023

Register for the next PuMP Blueprint Workshop near you

Reprinting Articles

You are welcome to use articles from the Measure Up blog, with these requirements

Connect with Stacey

Haven’t found what you’re looking for? Want more information? Fill out the form below and I’ll get in touch with you as soon as possible.

    *We respect your email privacy.
    Suite 117 Level 14,
    167 Eagle Street,
    Brisbane Qld 4000,
    Stacey Barr Pty Ltd
    ACN: 129953635
    Director: Stacey Barr