6 Questions to Help You Measure Anything

The need for measurement in our organizations has never been more important, yet most organizations do not have particularly useful or usable KPIs and reports.  It is important to recognize right up front that great measures don’t just happen, and software is unable to solve this problem for you.  Your organization may have great skills in visualization and statistical analysis (which is a good thing!), but if you don’t have an excellent approach to ensuring your KPIs are meaningfully connected to the key strategic goals, you will never have the insights you need to make decisions over time (as you work to achieve your organization’s desired future state).

Interestingly, the main problem with the lack of useful measures happens much earlier in the process than visualizing data and building dashboards.

The first measurement problem starts during strategy formulation.

Here are some real examples of the types of goals leaders and teams often develop when formulating their strategy:

  • Our industry is sustainable and adaptable as climate changes
  • Review all external conduct operations communications
  • Our communities are vibrant
  • Digital Transformation

In their current state, the above goals are immeasurable because they suffer from goal-writing problems that make them difficult to measure in a meaningful way. This results in KPIs that are of low value for decision-making as your teams execute.

Your teams need to know that to properly measure goals like the examples above, you need to take the following steps first (and the 6 questions we provide empower these steps):

Ensure goals are outcome or impact-focused

  • We do this because we measure progress to a better future, not whether we simply completed an action or not.
    • Below are examples of goals that are actions, not yet results, because they state what we want to do, not the impact of doing it:
      • Review all external conduct operations communications
      • Digital Transformation

Ensure goals are written in language that everyone understands in the same way

  • We do this because we never want to be guessing what our desired future state looks like
    • Below is the example of a goal with corporate jargon and open to different interpretations:
      • Our communities are vibrant

Separate goals that have been bundled together

  • We do this because each goal would need a different performance measure
    • Below is an example of a goal that is multi-focused (and uses corporate jargon)
      • Our industry is sustainable and adaptable as climate changes

Use these 3 questions to better prepare your strategic goal (it) to be measured.

These questions will help your team discover “what matters most to be measured”.

  1. What does “it” (ie. sustainable) mean exactly?
  2. What does “it” mean to us, in our situation?
  3. What about “it” is the important part for us?

Use these next 3 questions to detect evidence of your now clearer goal

The questions will help your team uncover potential measures because they are based on what we can observe and detect in real life.

  • If “it” was already enough, how would we recognize it?
  • If “it” wasn’t already enough, how would we recognize it?
  • How could we explain “it” to a 10-year-old?

Investing time in transforming how we design and use measures during strategy execution will deliver exponential value, because what’s the point of having any kind of strategic goal if we aren’t aware of what would convince us that all the time, money, and effort we are investing is having our intended impact?

Learn more: download our White Papers

Stacey Barr is the Founder and Creator of the PuMP® Performance Measurement Process and the Evidence-Based Leadership program. Louise Watson, Adura Strategy Inc. is licensed by Stacey Barr as the Partner for North America for training and consulting.