Designing Metrics that Matter Part I
Welcome to the first blog in our Measure to Manage series; where we’re exploring the importance of, and path to, actionable information for managing your business, processes, and systems. Why do Metrics matter? They are performance indicators; which means they let us know whether we are winning or losing in the pursuit of our goals.
For those of us old enough to remember (and here’s to hoping that’s more than just me), magazines on coffee tables were a common thing in life. In some ways they were a status symbol, or at least a subtle way of expressing one’s interests and perhaps priorities. When visiting friends, I often looked for signs they were read; pages separated a little more than normal, or a corner bent that showed an earmarked story, but more often than not, they were for display purposes only. The subscriber hadn’t gotten around to cancelling the subscription like they’d told themselves they would, or they were deliberately spending money on what amounted to table dressing.
Metrics should be more than a table dressing, but…
This is the fate of many metrics and reports inside companies today; they arrive in their paper and electronic forms at their appointed time, and sit. The receiving party is too busy to look them over, but doesn’t think it’s quite appropriate to delete them… at least not yet. They need to sit on the coffee table a little longer in order to show those who are watching that they’re taken seriously.
They’re referenced occasionally, especially if we have reason to believe we’ll be asked about them, perhaps at a team meeting; but other than that, they sit on the proverbial ‘coffee table’ waiting for the moment we can consider them ‘outdated’.
This is truly a shame, for the company and the manager, but then again, do many organizations have a process by which metrics and reports are routinely reviewed for ‘actionability’? In my experience, few do.
So, how do we become actionable?
For information to be ‘actionable’ it must have four attributes, and it must have ALL four ALL the time.
At KineticXperience we use the acronym RCAT to cover all four; Relevant, Complete, Accurate, and Timely. Our designs ensure all four attributes are present, and are field tested before they’re allowed to arrive at your door.
First and foremost, it must be Relevant. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often the information isn’t relevant enough to matter, or how irrelevant information creates noise, distracting the user from seeing what matters.
For instance, regional sales projections seem quite relevant for a region sales manager, but what about all the other information that gives context and therefore meaning? Are they broken out by the districts that role up to the region level? Do they include prospects and existing clients that might be in the managers territory, but are ‘special accounts’ managed by someone else? Are they missing a ‘likelihood to win’ rating broken out by new, add, and renewal status? Did anyone bother to vet the reason codes given for the deals that are taking longer than expected?
The absence of relevant information, as well as the presence of irrelevant information, increase the likelihood this report will be read as much as that Patio Lifestyles magazine you’ve been receiving the last 2 years.
Second, the information must be Complete. Missing information is the leading reason given for why managers don’t take action; sometimes it’s legitimate, and sometimes the manager is suffering a case of decision deferral (but that’s for another blog at another time). We’ll run with the assumption missing information is a legitimate hinderance to making an informed decision and taking action. How far would you be willing to drive with a broken gas gauge?
Third, the information must be Accurate. Just as missing information is the leading reason given for not taking action, inaccurate information is the leading reason for taking the wrong action! At least with missing information you usually know you don’t know, but with inaccurate information, you often don’t know what you don’t know. Your credibility is hinges on your information’s reliability.
And finally, fourth, the information must be Timely. There’s nothing quite like having a subscription to your favorite day trader magazine containing the exact information you need (relevant), knowing that it’s all there (complete), with confidence the writer is spot on (accurate), only to find out the issue you got today is two days old. There’s a reason they wrap fish in day old newspapers.
Perhaps you can recall when one or more of these attributes was missing from the information you received and you felt paralyzed instead of empowered to act on it.
If you can relate, I encourage you to do two things:
1. Gather and audit your reports for RCAT; just like the magazine on the coffee table, make them justify their existence
2. Follow our blog for more information on how to design metrics that matter
Rick Crump is CEO and Principal Consultant at KineticXperience.
KineticXperience, the Executive’s right hand for building solutions with impact; check us out at http://kineticxperience.com and follow us on twitter @kineticxp. You can also email us for more information at Info@kineticxperience.com
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