Measuring Success – How We Know We Have ‘Arrived’

The fifth article in a series on Change: The Provider of Opportunity

by Bruce Weber

In “Execute Wisely and Strategically,” we discussed understanding how, once many ideas are generated, we then begin the ideation evaluation process and determine what remains and what is eliminated. Here, we will focus on the solid execution of those new ideas and propelling the organization in creating the future it wants. This article reviews the measurement of success once idea execution has begun, and how to ensure that goals are truly being attained.

There is no such thing as a perfect tracking system, but not having one puts a business into serious jeopardy. Jack Welsh of GE once said, “if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.” Understanding where the business stands against its goals is fundamental to being on the road to success. There are several key components to consider along the way to discover what progress is being made against the business’s goals. 

Before developing a set of measurement metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs), business leaders must first determine exactly what is intended to be measured. The measurement criteria should be tied directly to the strategic objectives of the business with a focus on recognizing achievements and goal attainment.

The next step is to develop a common measurement language that provides focus to all inside the organization. This “metric language” allows for comparison among groups and offers consistency. It’s important to use common institutional metrics, and not select too many so as to not to overload the staff tracking them. In a mentoring organization, for example, metrics might be days until match, frequency of match meetings, and length of time the match remains in the match relationship. Keeping the metrics to relevant, meaningful data is critical to adoption of those metrics. 

The quality of the metric is much more important than the quantity, and the metric focus should always be on informing against strategy and performance. Thinking about the goal, which is to inform progress against plan, will help the business leader to always keep that in mind and avoid too many surveys/measurements resulting in survey fatigue. Each goal measured should be actionable and contain reasonable timeframes for accomplishment. 

Goals and measurement are great calibration tools that help facilitate adjustments in strategy where needed. A business plan is not intended to be a static document of direction but rather a framework within to operate the business. It is wise to spend time on the expectations and actions required to execute well and avoid overmanaging the process, as that can encourage discontent; the metrics should be used as a guide without letting them overwhelm. Also, if a red, yellow, green nomenclature is used in a measurement scorecard, red should not be viewed as failure but rather an indicator that some urgent activity and direction need occur. Leaders should engage discussion and collective action among the team for the desired results.

As the measurement and goal attainment process unfolds, business leaders should allow provisions for metrics and targets to evolve. The most successful plans are built as a framework or container in which the business goals and strategic imperatives reside. It’s important to allow them to morph into what is needed within the business to succeed and avoid delays searching for the perfect measurement.

Finally, metrics are not an excuse or substitute for decision making. The focus should always remain on managing the organization’s strategy and working remaining true to accomplishing the “why” and purpose. Following this process allows true success to be obtained and allows the metrics to inspire the business!

Bruce WeberBruce Weber is founder and president/CEO at Weber Group. Weber brings more than 20 years of experience to the for-profit and nonprofit community, working with startup, growth and mature organizations. His focus is in strengthening organizations through strategic planning, organizational development, leadership and board development. He is a BoardSource Certified Governance trainer and a founding partner of the Nonprofit Lifecycles Institute. 


“Measuring Success – How We Know We Have ‘Arrived’” is the fifth and final article in Bruce Weber’s series on Change: The Provider of Opportunity

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