Why You Must Set Performance Measures To Achieve Results

We know what gets measured gets done. So, who decides what gets measured? It might surprise you, but most leaders set objectives but not performance measurements. This can be a costly mistake.

If you don’t determine what performance gets measured, people will make up their own. And those things may not lead to your objectives.

Where’s The Bullseye?

People are intelligent and want to do meaningful work. If left to themselves, people will do their work in the ways that are most interesting and meaningful to themselves.

Think of someone shooting an arrow but with no target, no bullseye. What do they aim for? They aim for wherever is interesting. A tree. A spot on the side of barn. Or a bale of hay. Any of these becomes the target.

In your organization, where the metaphorical arrows hits, people will draw a bullseye around them. These become the performance measures. The more they use those performance measurements, the more convinced they become that these are the most important. Yet, these measurements might make no scense to the health of the organizations and its objectives. [Tweet “If you don’t set measurements, others will. Those measurements may not lead to your objectives.”]

The difference between the bullseye that people set for themselves and the one you wish them to hit, is a gap of misdirected energy and resources. That gap is costly.

We can eliminate that gap by setting clear objectives and helping people set clear measurements to reach those objectives.

4 Steps To Setting Performance Measures

  1. Set important, clear objectives. Make them SMART.
  2. Agree on meaningful performance measures that will logically contribute to the success of the objectives.
  3. Monitor, or ask supervisors to monitor these measurements.
  4. Occasionally test the validity of each performance measurement and change them as needed to sharpen the results toward the objective.

It’s not enough to set organizational objectives, leaders must also help people to set performance measurements that will be meaningful and contribute effectively to those objectives.

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    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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    4 thoughts on “Why You Must Set Performance Measures To Achieve Results

    1. Great stuff Keith. I can testify that when I measure my growth, I find growth to measure. When I don’t measure my growth, I look back only to see I’ve been stagnant. Measuring performance is key!

      • Derek, the key is to find the measures that matters to achieving your desired results. And to measure those. Other measures may make us feel great, but might actually lead us away from our larger objectives.

    2. I think it is as important to know what not to measure. You can’t fully predict what needs to be done as the world changes. Too often we measure the things where we can get data and miss the things that are important. CEOs often set measures related to cost performance and don’t pick up on innovation. This is a challenging discussion.

      • Al, helpful comment. It highlights that we need multiple perspectives to set good measures.

        We have to find (and re-find as things change) the measures that are important to our objectives, both short- and long-term. In defining what our objectives are, leaders must embrace and work with tensions: innovation vs efficient delivery systems; quality/features vs costs; short vs long-term, now vs later, etc. I can’t choose either cost performance or innovation, it must be both/and. The tension is where to draw the line with how much is enough – too much, too little.

        In my context of solopenuers, ministry folks, coaches, etc. their challenge isn’t strictly adhering to one measure. It is more that people measure what they feel good about doing, but those measures don’t lead to the objectives they’ve said they want to reach. So, like a happy hamster on the wheel, they are fulfilled doing their work, but are going nowhere fast.

        This challenge is multiplied with co-workers, who select their own measures.

        So, we all agree on the objectives, but our measures may be sending us in different directions.