Should You Measure Only What You Can Achieve?

December 22, 2015 by Stacey Barr

A reasonably frequently asked question about performance measurement is how to find KPIs or measures that you are guaranteed to achieve successfully. Is presupposes that KPIs and measures should be achieved successfully. Is that true?

I’ve written in the past about BHAGs – Big Hairy Audacious Goals – and why they are meant NOT to be achieved. My view is that when we avoid KPIs or measures that we can’t guarantee we will meet, we end up guaranteeing a fate worse than failure.

That fate is going backwards. If we don’t strive or try for more or better, we aren’t staying the same. We’re going backwards. Look to Nature and see that nothing ever stays the same. Everything deteriorates, and deteriorates faster when left alone. We need to strive and try, or we’ll go backwards.

Striving and trying means failing. And it’s failure that frightens those people who want KPIs and measures they are guaranteed to achieve. They want to measure only what they already have full control of. If they already have full control of it, what’s the point of measuring it?

Measuring is for improving things we don’t currently have enough control over. And targets – the levels of performance we want to shift our measures to – play the role of pulling us up, not highlighting our shortfalls.


What do you think is going on under the surface of this desire to measure only what we can control? What is the root cause of our fear of striving for levels of performance we cannot guarantee we will achieve?


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  1. Re: Look to Nature and see that nothing ever stays the same. Stacey, you’ve just defined ‘entropy’.

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