Why You Should Start Small With a New KPI Methodology

by Stacey Barr |

One mistake organisations make in performance measurement is to not have a real KPI methodology. They treat measuring performance as an ad hoc activity or event. But when you do adopt a performance measurement methodology, another mistake is to do too much too soon. Starting small is important for a few reasons…

Rushing into a full implementation of your new performance measurement methodology, without a strong enough performance culture (and how many of us can claim to have that?), is a recipe for failure:

  • You’ll overwhelm people and burn them out.
  • You’ll make mistakes without noticing, and leave them uncorrected.
  • You’ll feel out of your depth and lack confidence when you need it most.
  • You’ll fail to get a measurable return on investment for your measurement approach.

Starting small, just like a pilot test, has some very worthwhile advantages:

Advantage #1: Learn and master first.

Attending a training course doesn’t make anyone a master. You have to implement and practice, fail and learn, before you can say you’ve earned your stripes.

Advantage #2: Prove a return on investment.

If you start with striving for an ROI on your measurement effort with a simple and small pilot implementation, it will be easier to keep that emphasis as you roll out more fully. Otherwise, you’ve just a found a way to waste more resources.

Advantage #3: Handle setbacks more easily

When you give yourself the opportunity to learn in a safe environment – like starting small – there is less consequence if you fail (and you will). So you will have more emotional energy to observe those failures stoically and collect up the learnings into a kit-bag of tips and tricks for when you facilitate others.

Advantage #4: Build real engagement, naturally.

Telling people to be involved in something new rarely builds buy-in. Teaching them, even, isn’t enough to build buy-in. But when you can show them, that’s when you start building buy-in. Believe me, attempting performance measurement without having buy-in first is a tremendously difficult endeavour that rarely works.


Where would you pilot test a new performance measurement methodology? What performance challenge would be an ideal candidate to measure more meaningfully and produce a measurable improvement?

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  1. I love your suggestion Stacey about starting out small so you can practice. No one ever expects people to be able to play soccer perfectly when they first start, or to be able to hold the perfect breath when first starting yoga. That’s why they call it soccer practice and yoga practice. So let’s start with some performance measurement practice!!

    • Stacey Barr says:

      What a perfect analogy Louise! One of my mantras in performance measurement, which participants at the PuMP workshops will know, is “practice, not perfection”. Not enough of us practice, but rather we aim straight for what is really a master practitioner level result, and then get despondent when it doesn’t work out.

    • Stacey Barr says:

      I should add, for everyone’s benefit, that Louise IS a master practitioner in PuMP, as one of my fantastic PuMP Consultants (she’s in Canada – get in contact here).

  2. Tom Griffin says:

    Excellent brain food as always. I have heard the fail fast philosophy and often see people, including myself at times, repeat a new flavor of the same mistake instead of learning from it. The method assumes that you have the humility to truly see the error and the logical tools to disgnose and fix the issue. What I like about your approach is that you encourage people down a gentle path of thruth that sees the opportunity of a problem and not the blame. That is the only environment where learning can flouris for everyone. “You cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Einstein Cheers, Tom

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Tom, I love that Einstein quote. Thanks for the reminder! To solve our performance measurement problems, we need to change our thinking. That’s why I like to frame performance measurement as a process, step by step, because that makes it more visible to us, and we can then see how to change our approach to make it better.

  3. Clive Keyte says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve lost count of how many times I have engaged with an organisation that wants to throw out the old and bring in the new by boiling the ocean. Your point about having a strong enough performance culture is absolutely key. Just because things get measured in an organisation doesn’t mean there is a performance culture, all it means is they measure things. Building a performance culture takes time and effort and I can honestly say that starting small and building on success, in my experience, is the only way to do it. A great analogy from Louise above, being a sportsman myself, I know that without continued practice, I cannot make the grade.

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Clive thanks for joining the conversation. More work on defining and designing and creating a performance culture is certainly needed in our field. And yes, I like the idea of starting small and building on success and NOT boiling the ocean.

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