Measuring Success is Simple

February 11, 2020 by Stacey Barr

Guest author Martin Klubeck, author of Metrics: How to Improve Key Business Results, helps us understand that measuring success the right way depends on asking the right question about success. By Martin Klubeck.

Martin Klubeck

Really. Companies spend a lot of effort trying to measure success in terms of repeat customers, customer satisfaction, and of course revenue. But none of those are the right metric. I know because they don’t answer the right question.

I’m all about asking the right questions… and in the case of metrics, finding the root question.

When we measure success, the simple question is, what defines our success?

On a personal level it’s not how much money we make or how much fame we attain. From a business’ viewpoint, it’s not sales figures or the stock value. It’s all about our purpose.

Your purpose is why you or your company exists. And success is defined simply as how well you are fulfilling that purpose. The better you are fulfilling it, the more successful you are.

Do you think that’s too simple?

I’ve worked with organizations that struggle to define their purpose. They write terribly complex and convoluted mission statements that tell a lot about what they do and how they do it… but not why. And then if they do define their mission clearly, they fail to measure fulfillment of it.

Test my theory. Review your organization’s mission statement.

Does it tell why the company exists? Or does it instead tell you what it does? Or does it tell you how it does what it does?

If you don’t clearly define and communicate the “why” driving your organization’s existence, how can you claim to be successful? The same is true for any individual. We can chase a bigger paycheck, we can chase fame and glory. But none of those make us successful. They only make us wealthy, or famous.

There are (too) many stories of people who have both and still fail to be happy. Why? Because they aren’t fulfilling their purpose.

A company that fails to fulfill its purpose is always at risk of losing its way.

When Walt Disney died, many worried that Disney, the company, would also die. They thought it was the enigmatic leadership of Walt Disney that made Disney what it was.

When Steve Jobs died, many began predicting the fall of Apple.

What the pundits failed to realize was that those two special leaders did more than create market-dominating companies. They instilled those companies with a clear purpose. A mission, and a vision for the future based on that mission. Both Apple and Disney are successful because they know their mission and are constantly seeking to fulfill it.

The ultimate metric has to be how well you are fulfilling your purpose.

All others support your progress to that goal. Are you successful? Is your company?

“The ultimate metric has to be how well you are fulfilling your purpose. All others support your progress to that goal.” – Marty Klubeck
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  1. Barry says:

    Excellent piece Stacey, you “hit the ball in the middle of the club-face“.

    The question i like to ask businesses is “how would you describe success?” This requires more than just a few ad hoc numbers or ratios. In fact, the numbers or ratios are derived from the success description.

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