Performance Measurement is for Truth Seekers

by Stacey Barr |

Who is the true audience for performance measures, metrics and KPIs?

Man looking for truth: performance measurement is for truth seekers. Credit:

For most of my career, I believed that the audience of performance measures (or metrics or KPIs) was anyone who led an organisation, a team, a process or a project. They were the creators and owners of performance goals, so they were the ones that needed measurement.

But in recent years, I’ve changed my mind. After almost 30 years of working in this field of performance measurement, I see the same resistance to measurement. No matter how good the measurement approach, there are deeper reasons why people resist it.

And I’ve written heaps about handling objections and resistance to measurement, as so many people ask me how to deal with it. Just a few of the more recent articles are these:

My friend Matt Church, founder of Thought Leaders (which is how I met him), once asked me who the audience of my own thought leadership is. I just wasn’t sure how to name them. And then he said ‘truth seekers’. He’s great with ideas (as you’d expect).

It took a while to settle in, if I’m honest. But it did sink in, and now I feel it’s the best term to describe the people who are the audience of performance measurement. A Truth Seeker is:

  • curious to know what really happened and why it happened
  • not afraid of knowing something didn’t work
  • eager to develop understanding that can be used in the future
  • perhaps still anxious about failure, but even more anxious about having no influence
  • afraid of being told good news that isn’t true (they hate vanity metrics)
  • almost desperate for actionable information that increases their self-efficacy and influence
  • routinely questioning their biases and the biases of others
  • suspicious of tradition, common knowledge, and the status quo

If you want to introduce a colleague to performance measurement, or a better way of doing it, then it helps to know if they are a Truth Seeker too. The clues that they are a Truth Seeker can be less obvious than the clues that they are a Truth Avoider. A Truth Avoider can be:

  • a fan of vanity metrics
  • tempted to manipulate the figures to get the answers they want
  • not interested in performance measurement at all
  • certain that they already have the answers
  • quick to change their minds based on external pressures or opinions, but less so based on facts
  • confident that their own opinions are truth

Proper performance measurement (like PuMP) is revelation to Truth Seekers, but a threat to Truth Avoiders. And it won’t cure the Truth Avoiders, either. So we need to be very careful when, where and how we introduce a proper performance measurement approach into our organisations.

The true audience for performance measures is Truth Seekers.
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