How To Make Your Performance Measurement Plan Realistic

by Stacey Barr |

Haste makes waste, they say. Making haste in performance measurement most certainly has created much waste! Avoid the waste by making your performance measurement plan realistic.

Chalkboard with the written message of 'Haste makes Waste'. Credit:

The haste that organisations make when they’re building their performance measurement systems probably stems from the urgency of everything else, coupled with an insufficient appreciation for what it takes to make measurement work well. They make haste in ways such as these:

  • tacking a KPI brainstorming session onto the annual planning workshop
  • settling for activity measures, or any other measure derived from already-available data
  • announcing the measures to all and sundry, expecting them to sign-off and accept the measures
  • contracting a performance dashboard build, before properly scoping the implementation of measures
  • letting the dashboard contractors decide how the measures should be visually displayed

Leaders and managers are then left wondering why the measures they end up with aren’t relevant to their goals, why no-one really has ownership of the measures, why data collection and reporting takes so much time and effort, and why the measures don’t bring insight to decision making.

Measurement is a process, not an event. It’s a process that takes time and effort to do properly. And it’s one of those things that you’re better off not doing at all if you don’t do it properly.

Make your performance measurement plan realistic by allowing time for the most important steps of the performance measurement process. These are the steps that are most often left out, to save time. But leaving them out is what causes the problems that, in the end, waste a whole lot more time.

Make sure you don’t leave out these important steps, but following these tips next time you plan some performance measurement work:

Tip 1: Allow time for people to discuss and translate the organisation’s strategy into measurable results.

Usually people don’t have a shared and sensory understanding of the strategy, and need to talk about it in language that helps them see it, hear it, feel it. Language is the difference between a goal that is measurable and one that is immeasurable.

Tip 2: Keep the momentum flowing by focusing on practice, not perfection.

What matters much more than precise measures is how people feel about measuring. When they feel more confident and engaged in measuring, then the choice of measures will improve a little further down the road. We always follow the 80% Rule:

When it’s 80% good enough, move on to the next step, because the next step is the only way to make it better than 80%.

Tip 3: Don’t brainstorm measures, deliberately design them.

Measures are quantifications of evidence that convinces us how much or how well our goals are coming into fruition. Brainstorming leaves out the important pre-cursor to a good measure: which evidence is worth quantifying. Measure design isn’t hard, but because it works, it saves all the time that is wasted debating and rehashing the poor excuses for measures that brainstorming produces.

Tip 4: Forget consultation, and focus on involvement.

Instead of consulting people with emails or presentations, schedule meetings or mini workshops for people to circle around a table and have a real interactive dialogue about what matters enough to measure. Tremendously better than sign-off, you’ll get unprecedented buy-in as the great reward for your trouble.

Tip 5: Clearly define how each measure should be implemented.

It takes time to find where the data is, to set up new data collection processes, to extract data from systems, and to analyse it. Technology can make it faster and easier, but technology can only do what it’s told. The best way to streamline and focus your data collection and analysis systems is to make it crystal clear how each measure should be implemented.

Tip 6: Let it be iterative, to balance haste with waste.

You won’t get a complete and perfect set of measures first time through. Practice, not perfection. Did I say that already? Hmm – it must be important.


Performance measurement, done properly, is transformative. But getting to that place where you are doing it well is a transformation in itself. Allow time for people to move through that transformation. And make the transformation as quick and as easy as possible by following a proper performance measurement process.

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