I Never Met a Metric I Didn’t Like

Well maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. The whole topic of establishing metrics has been creeping to the top of my brain over the past few weeks. Today it comes out.

In big companies there are many silos. We all acknowledge that and deep inside we want it to change, but mostly we just want the other guy to see it our way. That would be the fastest path to blowing up silos right? Perhaps, but maybe there is another way.

Sometimes people try to tear down the silos (read: convince others) by establishing, tracking and reporting on metrics; their metrics. Selecting metrics should be a pretty straightforward exercise, and oftentimes it is. However, the pool of available metrics grows over time as measuring tools improve and new channels emerge. Millions of words have been written on how to select metrics and most of the approaches are essentially sound. That’s not where the difficulty lies. Departments or lines of businesses choose metrics that support their particular goals, which gets them through the process pretty quickly. Where it gets interesting is when cross-functional teams are collaborating and must establish metrics for the larger project while ensuring their department’s goals are also well served. This is a challenging situation.

Thank goodness we have a wonderful tool to help at these moments; the Key Performance Indicator (KPI). KPI’s are typically set at the senior manager level and are the equivalent of commandments. They signal to the organization that when you are looking for work you should find a way to improve these KPIs.

All KPI’s are metrics, but not all metrics are KPI’s. This is an important distinction and can be used to great benefit for the entire company.

If you find yourself in a situation where your silo is in a room with other silos arguing over what metrics to choose, elevate the conversation by discussing the company KPI’s. Nobody can argue against that. Start with those metrics and move on to ensuring you can track and report on them, then dig into the project. Now this might mean you give up some of what you want to measure, so be prepared. Beyond the official record, each team is free to develop their own “shadow” metrics that may be required to manage their P&L and meet management mandates. That’s fine. This will help keep momentum and energy focused on solving the larger problem at hand. Good luck, and let me know how it’s going.

Illustration: Profile Concrete Equipment

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