Why do YOU Measure Performance?November 15, 2011 by Stacey Barr
Why measure performance or KPIs? To cover your ass/arse, manage people, or get more resources? These are the wrong reasons…
Management gurus like Peter Drucker have long since put to bed the idea that measuring performance really does improve performance significantly more than if you don’t measure. But this doesn’t drive most people’s reason why they measure performance. Let’s look at a few of the most common reasons, and see how compelling they are.
Reason 1: Because you’re supposed to.
We’ve been told to have performance measures by our managers. The Strategy Office expects us to come up with some KPIs to go in the KPI column in the business plan. Everyone else seems to be measuring stuff so we probably should too. Let’s just get it done and over with as quickly as we can. What data do we have? Maybe we can throw a few KPIs together real quick…
It’s little wonder then, that to many people performance measurement always feels like another corporate hoop to jump through that takes up time they should be spending on their “real work”.
Reason 2: To CYA (cover your arse/ass).
Show you’re doing lots of work, doing good things, getting heaps of stuff done. Then maybe managers will stop changing things on you all the time, or stop putting pressure on you to work harder, work smarter, streamline this, reengineer that.
All you have to do is to find a few measures that always have positive trends and show how well things are going. Measurement drives behaviour, so where do you think people will prioritise their time and attention when they measure the things that are easy to improve?
Reason 3: To manage staff performance.
Everyone has some KPIs in their performance agreements. And targets. That should make it a lot more objective to work out who’s performing and who isn’t. But measuring people’s performance doesn’t work.
And so staff quickly adopt Reason #2 for measuring performance. What happens to overall company/organisational performance then?
Reason 4: To negotiate for more resources.
Demonstrate how worthwhile your outputs are, how capable your team is, how super things could be with more funding. No-one likes having their budget cut. Think of all the cool projects that you won’t get to do if you lose resources.
Funny though, when we give more resources to things that are working, and deny resources to things that need help to be improved. In any case, not enough resources is rarely the reason for poor performance.
Reason 5: To monitor strategy execution.
Make sure that the strategic initiatives are being implemented as planned. We have 57 strategies, and they all matter. We need to be sure we get them all done.
Perhaps this is why so many organisations have so many of what I think is a completely useless type of performance measure: “the milestone”. But people will argue until they’re blue in the face that reaching a milestone for a project or initiative means that performance must be better. How so, exactly?
Reason 6: To achieve targets set by the strategy.
Focus on how far current actual performance levels are from targeted performance levels, and using cause analysis and process improvement techniques to find good ways to lift current performance levels until they “reach the targets”.
When most people in a company or organisation have this reason for measuring performance, I’d describe it as a continuous improvement or results-oriented culture. It could be a very energising place to work.
Reason 7: To continually improve capability to achieve the organisation/company vision.
Every performance measure has a line of sight to the results implied by the mission or vision. Targets are set to guide resource allocation, but innovation means the targets are often exceeded. Business experiments quickly identify the best ways to achieve or exceed targets. Organisational learning and systems thinking ensures people are focused on the highest leverage ways to improve performance.
Imagine turning up to work each day, knowing that virtually everything you and your colleagues were going to do was verifiably contributing to making the world a better place?
Reason 8: ???
I’m under no illusions that there are only seven reasons people associate with measuring performance. Who knows how many there are? But I am very interested in YOUR personal reason for measuring performance. Let me know by commenting here on the blog post for this practical tip.
TAKE ACTION: It might be a good conversation to have with your colleagues: why do you measure performance? What are your reasons? Why do you bother? What value comes from doing it? What value should come from it? How can your approach to performance measurement improve, so it can better fulfil this purpose?
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