The 9 Steps to Performance Measurement Mastery

by Stacey Barr

Performance measurement mastery is like anything else – how long it takes depends on the step of Performance Measurement Maturity you’re starting from.

The 9 Steps to Performance Measurement Maturity

An extensive collection of performance measures and automated KPI dashboards shouldn’t be confused as mastery in performance measurement. Those are just outputs.

Organisations that have mastered performance measurement demonstrate that the right things are being improved, with regularity and with leverage, and in ways that result in the organisation better fulfilling its mission and reaching its vision.

But, since the achievement of mastery is a journey, it’s helpful to know what the steps in that journey are. Then you can locate your starting point, and know the next best thing to work on to increase your performance measurement maturity.

Why *these* 9 steps to performance measurement mastery?

Mastery is built on continually growing maturity. Maturity grows when we lock in learnings and then build on them. There is some sequence or logical progression to this.

There is never more true than in performance measurement, which itself is a sequential and logical process. What this means is that we can only grow our maturity in measurement when we’ve locked in the learning from one step, and built on that learning in the next step.

For example, we have to lock in the learning of writing measurable goals at one step, before we can design really good measures at the next step. Maturity in measure design can never be built on badly articulated goals.

To make this logical progression toward performance measurement mastery easier to see, I’ll explain the levels of the Performance Measurement Maturity Model starting at the top, rather than the bottom.

Level 10: Excellence

The Excellence level of maturity is about reflecting on the organisation’s performance measurement approach to overcome the inertia of “good enough” and make that approach even better at elevating the organisation’s performance. This is performance excellence. This is a high-performance organisation. This is what performance measurement mastery is.

To arrive at performance measurement mastery, however, requires that we have a deliberate performance measurement approach that is working for us already.

It’s only working for us if measurement is leading to fundamental performance improvement. And that comes from Level 9 in the Performance Measurement Maturity Model.

Level 9: Leverage

Step 9 on the journey to performance measurement mastery is to stop getting caught up in the whirlwind of everyday problems and make time for high-leverage strategy execution. That’s what we need to build on at Level 9, to step up to Level 10: Excellence.

We can only find that leverage when our performance measures lead us beyond information to true insight. And that comes from Level 8 in the Performance Measurement Maturity Model.

Level 8: Insight

Step 8 on the journey to performance measurement mastery is to stop fearing transparency and make performance reports tell us what we really need to know about performance. That’s what we need to build on at Level 8, to step up to Level 9: Leverage.

Performance reports that tell us what we really need to know answer three questions: what is performance actually doing, why is it doing that, and what can we do about it? The stuff we need to answer those questions comes from Level 7 in the Performance Measurement Maturity Model.

Level 7: Knowledge

Step 7 on the journey to performance measurement mastery is to quit tampering with performance and be guided by proper analysis that shows us real signals that deserve our attention and action. That’s what we need to build on at level 7, to step up to Level 8: Insight.

Trust is a big thing when it comes to numbers, because numbers can look right even when they’re wrong. We can only trust our measures when we know they’re based on the right data and the right calculations. How much trust we can put into our measures comes from Level 6 in the Performance Measurement Maturity Model.

Level 6: Truth

Step 6 on the journey to performance measurement mastery is to avoid making assumptions about our measures and instead take a disciplined approach to set them up in the right way and with the right data. That’s what we need to build on at Level 6, to step up to Level 7: Knowledge.

Dashboards are fun, but they’ll only lead us to the truth about performance when the proper work of measure definition happens first. This work, like any work, is fueled by buy-in and ownership of the measures, and that comes from Level 5 in the Performance Measurement Maturity Model.

Level 5: Ownership

Step 5 on the journey to performance measurement mastery is to redefine our definition of accountability for performance, so we can naturally grow real buy-in to performance measurement. That’s what we need to build on at Level 5, to step up to Level 6: Truth.

Buy-in isn’t something we can force and take. We need to create the conditions for it to be given freely. It means giving control over to people to choose measures that are meaningful to them, and this comes from Level 4 in the Performance Measurement Maturity Model.

Level 4: Evidence

Step 4 on the journey to performance measurement mastery is to move beyond subjective declarations about what performance is doing by bringing in the objectivity of quantification. That’s what we need to build on at Level 4, to step up to Level 5: Ownership.

When people see that meaningful quantification is possible, they get excited. But to see that meaningful quantification is possible, they first must understand that even intangible goals can be measured, and this comes from Level 3 in the Performance Measurement Maturity Model.

Level 3: Results

Step 3 on the journey to performance measurement mastery is to stop writing goals with vague words and instead write them using words that make it clear what we really mean. That’s what we need to build on at Level 3, to step up to Level 4: Evidence.

Saying what we really mean by a goal is a form of commitment to achieve that goal. This is too threatening, unless the culture has moved past judgment and blame as the responses to unmet goals. This is left behind in Level 2 in the Performance Measurement Maturity Model.

Level 2: Control

Step 2 on the journey to performance measurement mastery is to change the purpose of measurement to learning, so we can remove the fear of judgment. That’s what we need to build on at Level 2, to step up to Level 3: Results.

It’s one of the most deliberate mindset shifts that have to happen on the journey to performance measurement mastery. And that mindset shift will only happen after the organisation has decided to be deliberate about performance measurement. That decision is made at Level 1 in the Performance Measurement Maturity Model.

Level 1: Random

Step 1 on the journey to performance measurement mastery is to care enough about wanting better control over performance to approach it with some deliberation. That’s what we need to build on at Level 1, to step up to Level 2: Control.

This is the most basic starting point on the journey to performance measurement mastery: the decision to take the journey. There’s still a lot to learn, and organisations will learn the important things at different rates. That’s why your organisation might be at a different starting point.

What’s your performance measurement maturity starting point?

It’s probably not escaped your attention that I propose 10 levels of performance measurement maturity, but speak of 9 steps. Here’s why: Level 10 is mastery, and Level 1 is not having even started the journey. If you’re starting at Level 1, there are 9 steps you must take to reach Level 10.

It’s not likely your organisation is starting at Level 1, however. You’re more likely to be somewhere along the journey already. And to figure that out, you can calculate your Performance Measurement Maturity Score using this method. Then you can answer this question:

What’s the next best thing for you to do, to make measurement work better? How and when will you do it?

Performance measurement mastery is a sequential journey – each level must be locked in so the next can build upon it.
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