When we work with clients, we tell them how important it is to define what success means from the outset. Whether for a project, initiative, or for their entire organization, we extol the importance of putting a stake in the ground that represents an unambiguous and measurable outcome, that if achieved, would allow them to declare success and celebrate. We teach them to proactively sift through the noise of their data to select the metrics that truly matter most to achieving success.
The difference between that intentional proactive exercise and the alternative of sifting through data to find the story that fits the narrative you want to tell recently became even more clear to me as I reflected on how I was measuring my success in the realm of running.
I started noticing that even when I'm feeling like I'm in a running rut -- perhaps I've missed some workouts or have been running at slower paces than I had aimed for -- I still find myself combing through all my running data and declaring success for any number of random metrics (I didn't hit my training goals, but I ran more miles this January than any other January -- go me!).
As a recreational runner, it's no big deal if my half marathon pace gets slower each year. But just think if I was training to set a personal best, or qualify for the Boston Marathon, or place within the top 3 in my age group. In that case, sifting through past data and choosing to pay attention to whichever metrics tell the best story wouldn't help me get any closer to achieving my ambitious goals.
It's the same with organizational metrics. Unfortunately, we run into our fair share of organizations that lack a consistent, transparent approach to performance management -- or they measure so many metrics that it's impossible to make sense of whether they're ultimately on a path to success. Most organizations measure a million interesting data points, but at high-performing organizations, leaders know which 10-20 overall metrics they have to focus on each week, month, and quarter in order to truly win their equivalent of a marathon.
So ask yourself, is your organization more like a bumbling recreational runner or trying to win a marathon -- and do you have clarity around which performance metrics will tell you? If this topic interests you, stay tuned for more posts on effective strategic planning and performance management next month. (Or if you just can't wait, get in touch with us today. It's one of our favorite topics!)