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Mapping measurable results

Impact measurement and evaluation 23rd September 2018

Good performance measurement is ever-changing. Why? Because our strategic goals and focuses are ever-changing, and good performance measures are the feedback mechanisms we use to achieve them.

Measures should tell us when we are ready to change focus, when we have achieved what we set out to and what to improve next. Our most important measures become the ones which track our progress and development – the essence of a continuous improvement culture.

Frequent change is not a bad thing, actually it means that we are actively engaged in our strategic results. A static dashboard or performance report usually means we are not reaching our targets, or reviewing their relevance.

Measures should be reviewed when one (or more) of the following happen:

  • Strategic goals have changed
  • Team goals have changed
  • A measurement target has been achieved (now only it’s performance is monitored for exceptions, not improvement)
  • The measure isn’t regarded as a good match for the goal
  • The measure isn’t a real measure (it’s a milestone or an activity or just too vague)
  • The measure is driving the wrong behaviour e.g. data manipulation
  • Improving the measure’s result is triggering unintended consequences that can’t be mitigated

Should one of these triggers occur, a measure needs to be reviewed by going back to its purpose. This may result in it being rewritten or even a new measure being created. If the latter is the case, ensure the new measure follows two fundamental steps:

1. Making goals measurable

Write goals that are measurable by using words that a 10-year-old would understand.

It’s not about dumbing-down goals. But making sure they can be understood accurately – removing all assumptions. If they are written with management jargon and abstract concepts, people will either not know what it means or will draw their own (incorrect) interpretation.

The key to writing good goals is being able to simply explain the key result you are trying to achieve.

2. Design meaningful measures

Write meaningful measures by:

  1. Avoiding badly worded measures that are too broad or vague by making sure it is measurable.
  2. Drafting a list of performance measures for your goal or objective – don’t use meaningless or vague words to describe measures.
  3. Ensuring measures are articulated in quantitative terms.
  4. Not limiting measures to the data to-hand – you will never have all the data you need.
  5. Ensuring measures have clear names and descriptors.

Final thoughts

Many measures take on a life of their own in an organisation, and that is not always a positive thing. This may be because its importance is not reviewed, or a target is not set from the beginning meaning the same measure is reported for years. This usually creates an apathy to performance improvement because it loses its relevance to the stakeholder. Avoid this pitfall by setting achievable targets from the start, and constantly review the strategic priorities for your organisation.

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