Nine Ironman Tips For Performance Measurement Success

by Stacey Barr |

“No-Meat Athlete” and Ironman Triathlon finisher Susan Lacke wrote an article called “From Couch Potato to Ironman – In 20 Months” and it discussed the 9 keys to her successful accomplishment of that great feat. Those 9 keys, to me at least, seem to perfectly apply to the successful accomplishment of great performance measurement. So here’s my take on how Susan’s 9 keys can work for we performance measurement practitioners too:

finishing an ironman race

Key #1: Start small

Zoom in on a single goal or performance result and work to only measure that. They say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and I say a measure you can use right now is worth dozens you’re putting off until later.

Key #2: Commit

Lock it into your diary the tasks to choose that single goal or performance result, to design its performance measure, to get the data and graph it, to use the measure to improve performance. Keep a reminder close to your person at all times about why it matters (a note, a picture), so your commitment stays true to real performance improvement and you don’t just jump through performance measurement hoops for the sake of having a measure.

Key #3: Find those who know

Make a list of all the experts or specialists or authors or colleagues who have succeeded to measure the right things and improve performance. Learn from them, take their advice, model their approaches so you don’t waste time reinventing wheels or falling into traps.

Key #4: Build gradually

Start with meaningfully measuring a single goal, and when you’ve succeeded at that, continue with two goals, and when you’ve succeeded at those, continue further with four goals. Practice takes multiple iterations of action learning: select an approach, try it out, learn from the results, improve the approach.

Key #5: Make mistakes

Make mistakes, but make new ones. Don’t repeat the mistakes that others have already shown you how to avoid. If you’re stuck on how to do something, then design a little experiment and try it out. Learn, whether it fails or succeeds.

Key #6: Balance, not sacrifice

Yes, you’re super busy. Yes, your colleagues are super busy. That’s not a reason not to measure performance. It’s an excuse. The idea is to take the time you can get. Give 15 or 30 minutes to design a better measure this week, rather than delaying for months until you have a full day to design 10 better measures.

Key #7: Have a support system

Form a Measures Team of four to six volunteers in your business or organisation and meet weekly or monthly to share the performance measurement workload. Grow a network beyond your organisation of fellow performance measurement practitioners for sanity checks and inspiration. Find and use templates that save time. Be organised so you always make the time.

Key #8: Blinders on

People have more objections to performance measurement than just about anything else. They’re very well practiced at saying why it doesn’t work, why it fails, why they can’t do it. Don’t let anyone’s objections get into your head. Hold on to your beliefs about why measuring matters, how it can work, what the true value is in doing it.

Key #9: Enjoy it

Stay connected to the reason why we measure performance – ongoing improvement and excelling at what our organisations exist to do. Rise to the challenge and enjoy the success of making things fundamentally better. Experiment with ways to inject fun into performance measurement tasks.

TAKE ACTION: Is there just one of these nine keys that resonates with you, that feels like improving it would make a noticable difference in your performance measurement success? Give it a two-week focus, thinking about it each day, coming up with ideas to strengthen your ability to do it, testing those ideas. Aren’t you tired of waiting for the planets to line up before you make some real-deal performance measurement progress?

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