How to Navigate Through the Measures Universe

by Stacey Barr |

Imagine there is a universe of measures. It’s the all-encompassing collection of anything an organisation happens to measure. Navigating through the universe of measures, to decide how, when, why and whether to use each of them, is a massively overwhelming task.

Let’s see if we can put some order to the chaos of the measures universe. We’ll start with a model that uses the simple dimensions of ‘importance to improve’ and ‘urgency to improve’.

model of universe of measures

Performance measures: important and urgent.

Performance measures are a subset within this universe of measures. They are measures of business results that are currently important and urgent to improve, given the current strategic direction. This strategic direction acts like a gravity that pulls the relevant measures from all levels in the organisation into alignment with the current goals.

Political measures: urgent but not always important.

Political measures are another subset within the universe of measures. They are measures of business results that are currently important to external stakeholders of the organisation, and therefore potentially urgent for the organisation to produce for these stakeholders.

More often than not, political measures are different from performance measures, because they align more to the strategic needs of the stakeholders and not to the strategic needs of the organisation. So for the organisation itself, they are not important. They are an information product provided for external stakeholders.

Industry benchmark measures: urgent but not always important.

Industry benchmark measures are a subset of the universe of measures. They are measures of business results that are shared across similar organisations. Sometimes industry benchmark measures can be performance measures, but only when they align directly with the strategic direction of the organisation.

Industry measures tend to intersect a lot with political measures. So again, they monitor business results that aren’t particularly important to improve, from the perspective of the organisation itself. But there can be an urgency to produce them, for the sake of the external stakeholders they are important to.

Business-as-usual measures: important, but not urgent.

Business-as-usual measures are a subset of the universe of measures. These are measures of business results that might be important, but are not urgent to improve, in the context of the current business environment and strategic direction.

In the past they might have been performance measures, and in the future they might become performance measures. But only if they are direct evidence of a strategically important business result. So at any given point in time, business as usual measures will not overlap with the current performance measures.

Everything else: not urgent and not important.

Every other measure in the universe of measures is like a piece of space junk. They are measures of things that aren’t important to anyone, and aren’t urgent to improve. Usually they come into existence because the data was there and someone thought it should be used, despite not having a clear use for it. Often they are trivial counts of how much activity is being done.


What’s missing from these classifications of measures within the Measures Universe? Would you describe the classifications differently? Let’s see if your ideas can improve the Measures Universe model.

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