Make More Meaningful KPI Progress By Finding ‘Ish’

by Stacey Barr

We’re not making good enough KPI progress, because we waste effort in our pursuit of perfect KPIs or our acceptance of half-baked KPIs.

We need more ish in our performance measurement

In nearly thirty years of helping people use data to make better decisions, I’m seeing little progress in our performance measurement maturity. A lot of bad habits in measuring business performance are still common practice:

We waste our effort at two extremes: either the pursuit of perfect KPIs or the acceptance of half-baked and useless KPIs. The solution is somewhere inbetween.

Lynne Cazaly is an expert in facilitation, engagement, innovation and thinking together. Her book “ish: The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough” is about the enemy of perfection:

‘Ish’ means somewhat. It means reasonably or fairly, more or less. Ish is not finished or done, complete or perfect. It’s the opposite. It’s in progress, underway and wonderfully imperfect. Ish is not broken or stalled, stopped, undone, half-baked or problematic. Ish is about being in progress or underway.”

KPI progress is on a scale of two extremes, but the window of progress is somewhere

In PuMP, we talk about being practical, not perfect. We talk about the 80% rule, where you make what you’re doing 80% good enough, and move to the next step. PuMP is also designed in a way that if something needs to be more than 80% good enough, the next step in PuMP will improve it.

And with a KPI approach like PuMP, progress continues because of this form of ish.

KPI progress is made when we embrace the ish of performance measurement

We don’t have enough of the right kind of ‘ish’ in performance measurement.

We waste too much time on perfect KPIs, dashboards and data. We waste too much time on broken approaches to measurement, on stalled and stopped KPI projects, on half-baked KPIs. To paraphrase what Lynne says in her book:

“We often start a [KPI] project with great hope – of what the [KPIs and reaching their targets] could be like… We end up in great waste where the [performance insight and accountability] we’re getting doesn’t equal the effort we’ve put in [to collect data, create KPIs, report them].”

Most KPI projects fail. But they don’t have to. The right kind of KPI approach, that embraces ish will save us. Lynne’s book is the inspiration to find the ish that will help us make the best progress with KPIs.

To make meaningful and practical progress with measuring what matters, we need to:

  • Follow a deliberate process for measuring performance and developing KPIs, so we don’t fall into the ‘broken, stalled, stopped, half-baked’ side of ish.
  • Manage KPI projects with a focus on practicality, not losing traction by tipping over to the ‘pursuit of perfection’ side of ish.

Forget perfect KPIs. Aim for more than half-baked KPIs. Find great KPIs by finding the ‘ish’ in performance measurement.
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Which side of ‘ish’ does your organisation tend to lie when it comes to KPI progress?

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