What Does a KPI Owner Do?

by Stacey Barr |

The best and most meaningful performance measure in the world can be rendered utterly useless if no one is clear about who should interpret and use it.

Likewise, too many cooks spoil the broth. If everyone tries to take control over improving the same area of performance, then time, effort, and resources will almost certainly be wasted.

The most appropriate person to be the performance owner of a particular measure is the person who is responsible for managing the process, function, or activity that the measure is monitoring.

That person has access to the data, knowledge of how that area works, and, most importantly, is in a position to make decisions about how to improve that area. The performance owner of a measure is responsible for:

  1. Monitoring (looking at) the measure over time
  2. Interpreting its trends and patterns and seeking causes for them
  3. Communicating this information to people affected by that performance area
  4. Initiating action to improve performance in that area, and
  5. Following up to be sure that actions are having the desired effect on performance

The performance owner is NOT the person whose bum gets kicked should the performance measure go in the wrong direction, or the target is missed.

No one person can be completely responsible for the actual quantitative or qualitative values of a measure because the measure’s values are almost always based on the interplay of many factors, most of which are outside the control of any one person. These are factors like organisational policies and procedures and the actions of other people, who are human and imperfect.

So focusing blame on one person is focusing attention away from the real causes – and the real opportunities – for improving performance. What’s the use of holding the call centre manager responsible for a measure of Average Handling Time, the average time it takes to handle customer enquiries, when that time is largely dependent on the quality of products and services that other departments in the company are delivering?

Collaboration, not blame, fixes problems.

Giving ownership of a particular performance measure to someone does not exclude others from taking a role in monitoring, interpreting, or improving the performance it tracks. The performance owner is simply the person who has the best experience, skill, and knowledge to lead the interpretation of and response to the measure.

So we always make doubly sure that the owner of a performance measure has the knowledge, experience, skill, and authority to monitor, interpret, and respond to his measure.

DISCUSSION:

How does ownership of KPIs or performance measures happen in your organisation? Is it clear? Are the responsibilities a trigger for blame, or for collaborative performance improvement?

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