Example KPIs

How to Get Example KPIs

How to find and make the best use of example KPIs to monitor and improve business performance.

Before reading more about example KPIs, it will help to test if we share the same understanding of what a KPI is. That way you can work out if this page is going to help you or not. In my work, a KPI is a quantification that provides objective evidence of the degree to which a performance result is occurring over time. In the context of this website, it is not for employee performance plans but for monitoring organisational or business performance.

Finding example KPIs can be a good thing to do, particularly when you’re really stuck about how to measure something. Sometimes we just need some practical ideas to get started. But looking for example KPIs for the wrong reason, or in the wrong way, can be very dangerous to your organisation’s performance.

When it comes to finding the right example KPIs for your goal, less is more.

Sure, searching for example KPIs can give you some good ideas, but there are some risks that are important to be aware of:

  • rarely are sample measures described in enough detail for you to understand exactly how to compute them
  • you simply must be clear about your results before you look for potential measures – otherwise you just end up measuring what’s easy (and rarely is that what’s useful)
  • adopting other people’s measures is the same as adopting their strategy (and it may not be right for your organisation)
  • adopting some measures and telling staff that’s what’s going to be used will not get you any buy-in

If I were to go looking for example KPIs, I’d be more likely to look in community-generated KPI lists, like KPI Library. It’s a good source of triggers or ideas for measures in all kinds of categories. But as with all off-the-shelf measures and KPIs, there is not enough detail to rely solely on this as a source of measures for your business or organisation.

So here is my recommended process for making the most of example KPIs while taking a robust approach to performance measurement (or email this page to yourself or a friend):


Step 1: Before you look for example KPIs, make sure the results you want to monitor are measurable.

Too many goals simply aren’t clear and specific enough to be measurable. They contain weasel words, the kind of language that is vague, broad and fluffy. Some call it management-speak or jargon. Goals that are written in weasel words will not be clear, and it will be almost impossible to find example KPIs that are meaningful and relevant enough.

Therefore, before you start your search for example KPIs, make sure you’re very clear first about the goals you want to use those KPIs to monitor. It might be as simple as proving that the goals you have are already measurable, by using these three tests of the measurability of your goals.

But if you fear that your goals are too intangible, make sure you spend the time to make those intangible goals clear and specific and measurable. It will be a tiny fraction of the time you would otherwise waste trying to implement and use KPIs that help no-one.

Step 2: Mitigate the risks of ending up with useless example KPIs that waste your time.

It’s a sad truth that most online resources for example KPIs contain a lot of rubbish. The listed KPIs are too vague, not quantitative, and often not even measures at all. These KPI databases or KPI libraries are often the result of consultants wanting to make a quick buck. After all, no-one really has the time to flesh out 36,000 well-designed and thoroughly-defined KPIs for just about every possible situation.

You need to keep your wits about you, to make sure you don’t waste a tonne of time sifting through rubbish to find a few gems. Sometimes it can much faster to design your own KPIs.

So, as you go on the search for databases and libraries and lists of example KPIs for your industry or function, keep in mind their limitations and their potential to overwhelm you with way too many KPIs to sift through.

Step 3: Capture the essential details for each example KPI, so their definitions and implementation are clear.

Many lists of KPIs and performance measures contain items that are not real KPIs at all. They might be milestones, vague concepts that are not yet measurable, actions, or even just data sources. Be careful! There are two important things you’ll need to capture for each example KPI you find, to be sure it has potential use to you:

Firstly, good KPIs and performance measures start by being real measures. They follow a specific formula or recipe. So when you search for example KPIs, only pay attention to those that satisfy the 4-part recipe for quantitative measures.

Secondly, good KPIs and performance measures can be defined in enough detail to implement them. Each KPI or measure will need an unambiguous formula, specific data items required, and any notes on limitations or scope. These are the same details you’d need to be confident about your rationale for choosing any KPI.

Step 4: Search for example KPIs to populate your list of potential measures.

You won’t ever find the perfect example KPIs for you. Your goals, your business or organisation, your current systems and processes are all unique. Hence any KPI or performance measure you find will need to be tailored to your situation.

What this means is that the list of example KPIs you collate is really a list of potential measures, not your final measures. And one of the best ways to organise your collated list is by placing potential KPIs under each goal you want to find example KPIs for. In fact, listing potential measures is an essential step in this technique for designing and selecting performance measures.

Then you’re ready to get the most from KPI databases, libraries and lists. Here is a summary of the warnings and reminders you’ve hopefully already read on this page.

Step 5: Evaluate your collated example KPIs, to select the best ones for your goals and organisation.

When your search for example KPIs has resulted in a list of potential measures, you need to perform two types of evaluation on them. This is to be sure you only keep the KPIs or measures that are true measures, that are very relevant to your goals, and that are feasible to implement in your unique situation.

Firstly, test each potential KPI to make sure it satisfies the definition of a real performance measure. And throw away anything on your list that does not satisfy that definition.

Secondly, test each potential KPI for relevance to the goal, and for feasibility to implement. Ratings for relevance and feasibility can be a 1-to-7 scale. You’re aiming for relevance of at least 5, and feasibility of at least 4.

Thirdly, and while you’re at it, take your final list of KPIs, including those that you recently found and also those you already had in place, and test they all satisfy these five criteria of excellent measures. And if you still feel you have too many KPIs, do one more pass to kill off the zombies.

Bonus: How to find well-designed example KPIs on the Measure Up blog.

When Measure Up readers ask me how to measure something specific, I will write a blog post exploring how to measure it. Some of the most popular ones are these:

This list keeps growing, so make sure you go to the Measure Up blog and check for the latest example KPI posts.

back to The Most Common KPI Questions…

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