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Monday, August 22, 2022

10 Characteristics of Effective Performance Metrics

Most businesses understand the value of using metrics to assess the state of their company and validate the company is heading in the right direction. Organizational metrics, sometimes called Key Performance Indicators (KPI), are developed to understand the overall health of an organization. They provide the fundamental element of balanced scorecards and dashboards, which are used to quickly show how well the organization is performing relative to the past, a target, or both. 

Traditional KPI are established within four broad categories: 

Customer. Customers generally consider four broad categories in evaluating a supplier: Quality, Timeliness, Performance and Service, and Value. Customer communication methods are the means to understand the relative importance the customer base places on these categories as well as their general expectations. 

Internal process. These metrics that are strongly aligned with the strategic objectives are best suited. Total cycle time (i.e., time to process the order) and first-pass quality are relevant indicators of internal process performance. Process cycle efficiency, calculated as the value-added time divided by the total lead time, or Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) are relevant Lean-focused metrics for evaluating internal performance and resource utilization. 

Learning and growth. Metrics in this category might focus on the total deliverables (in dollars saved) from continuous improvement projects, new product or service development times, improvement in employee perspective or quality culture, revenue or market share associated with new product, and so on. 

Financial. Many suitable financial metrics are available and widely tracked, including revenue, profitability, market share, and so on. Cost of quality is also recommended. 

The choice of metric is important only so far as the metric is used to guide behavior or establish strategy. Poorly chosen metrics may lead to the suboptimal behavior if they lead people away from the organization's goals instead of towards them. 

To be effective and reliable, the metrics we choose to use need to have ten key characteristics. The following table was adapted from Keebler (1999) which suggest the qualities to look for in indicators. 

A good measure: 


Is quantitative 

The measure can be expressed as an objective value 

Is easy to understand 

The measure conveys at a glance what it is measuring, and how it is derived 

Encourages appropriate behavior 

The measure is balanced to reward productive behavior and discourage “game playing” 

Is visible 

The effects of the measure are readily apparent to all involved in the process being measured 

Is defined and mutually understood 

The measure has been defined by and/or agreed to by all key process participants (internally and externally) 

Encompasses both outputs and inputs 

The measure integrates factors from all aspects of the process measured 

Measures only what is important 

The measure focuses on a key performance indicator that is of real value to managing the process 

Is multidimensional 

The measure is properly balanced between utilization, productivity, and performance, and shows the trade-offs 

Uses economies of effort 

The benefits of the measure outweigh the costs of collection and analysis 

Facilitates trust 

The measure validates the participation among the various parties 

Creating KPIs forces your organization to clearly define the performance measures that outline how you’ll achieve your big strategic priorities. 

Remember the following: 

1) Define Your Measure – This sounds obvious, but every KPI must have a clear expression of what you need to measure. The more descriptive your performance measure, the better.  You can categorize performance measures into these categories: 
  • Activity Measures –This measures activity and can include a percentage, number, currency and activities, or processes. An example of this measure would be the number of leads in your pipeline. 
  • Outcome Measure – This measures progress against a defined outcome, often expressed as a percentage increase, change, or results from an outcome. An example of this would be % increase in revenue compared to last year. 
  • Project Measure – This measures the progress of a project, often expressed as percent complete, a deliverable, activity, or process the owner can influence. An example would be % complete to complete XX strategic project. 
  • Target Structure – These represent a numeric result against a date. A perfect example would be $XXXM in revenue by the end date of a strategic objective. 
2) Define Your Target – Your target is the numeric value you’re setting out to achieve. Targets need to match your measurement type and due date. If your measure is a percentage, your target needs to be a percentage. If your measure is a raw number, the target should be a raw number. 

3) Outline the Data Source – Every KPI needs to have a clear data source. Make sure you articulate where you are pulling your data from and what the calculations are so everyone is on the same page. 

4) Define an Owner and Tracking Frequency – As with any SMART goal, a KPI needs to have a clear owner and defined tracking frequency. So, make sure someone is accountable for pulling the data and updating performance on a defined frequency.  

Once chosen, the metrics must be communicated to the members of the organization. To be useful, the employees must be able to influence the metric through his or her performance, and it must be clear precisely how the employee’s performance influences the metric. 

Regardless of the metrics you use or your method for tracking, make sure to educate your organization on how the metrics are derived, what they indicate, and how they will be used in addition to regularly communicate relevant metrics to your team members. 

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