“If you are not measuring it, you are telling people that you are not serious about delivering it.”  When I heard this quote at a conference it sent a ripple of unrest and shuffling through the audience and a lively debate ensued.  What are you actually measuring in your business?  What are you doing with the data?  Is it creating the behaviours and results you want?

Measurement can be a double-edged sword, get it right and you will have razor sharp information that drives success, get it wrong and you can cause unintended harm. 

Cash continues to be very tight and businesses need to be relentless about improving efficiency, so many are now beginning to focus more on measurement.  But there is a real need for caution.  Consider the words of the management guru Peter Drucker: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently, that which should not be done at all”. 

Unintended consequences
You also need to consider the unintended consequences of measures that create unwanted behaviours.  For example; we have all, at some time, suffered at the hands of the major businesses that thought they were being smart by reducing costs with outsourced call-centre staff.  Over the last decade call centres have become a commodity competing purely on price.  If you have ever been passed around from pillar to post, or you were even cut off along the way it was probably due to the type of measures being used.  If staff are being measured on average number of calls, that number becomes more important than the call itself.  By making the call centre staff into a commodity that can be measured on the volume of calls, average waiting time, average call length, etc. it should be no surprise that they start treating customers like a commodity as well.

Be clear about what you want
So what are the best things to measure?  This is a debate I regularly have with any of my clients who want to implement the CLEAR Framework™.   This simple framework is all about motivating people through effective communication and it starts with expressing your vision in a way that staff can understand and engage with.  This sets the destination.  Then, like on any journey, you need to develop the milestones along the way.  Your milestones become your initial measures.  However, at this early stage they are often very high-level strategic targets like turnover and profitability, sales conversion rates and productivity and efficiency ratios.  Every business needs its own measures that keep track of the vital areas, so Directors can keep their finger on the pulse.  Ultimately your measures need to be about at least one of the following:

• improving quality,
• reducing errors,
• increasing quantity or
• reducing costs. 

Translation is the key
The key to success is the ability to translate these ‘corporate’ measures, that might excite the directors but are meaningless to staff, into something tangible that people can relate to.  If people can’t see how the measures relate to their daily tasks and actions it becomes difficult for them to understand how they can make a difference. 

A great way of making things relevant is to use departmental or team targets and make them SMART (specific, measureable, agreed, resourced and time-based).  For example reducing the number of complaints, errors or re-works.  They can then be personalised by setting individual objectives in appraisals. 

In fact Directors need to keep a keen eye on the effectiveness of the appraisal process itself.  Are appraisals driving performance?  If not why not?  Is there a link between the individual objectives being set and the key measures of business performance at the top level?  If not why not?  If the appraisal process is not having a direct impact on performance it can be seen as a waste of time.  This is missing the point.  Managers need feedback about the quality of the objectives they are setting and whether they are having the desired effect.  It is a process that needs to be continually tweaked, from the top down as well as from the bottom up.

Have you SET the standard?
While it is relatively easy to set SMART objectives for Directors and Managers, the lower down the organisation you go the more difficult it can become to find specific quantifiable measures.  This is because many junior roles are about completing regular and repetitive tasks rather than achieving a particular goal or end point.  So you need to use standards. 

It’s not unusual to hear a potential client complaining about performance only to discover that there are no meaningful standards in place.  He or she may well have an idea about how things should be done (in their head) and yet they get frustrated that people don’t do as they want.  It’s like expecting them to be able to mind-read.  Your expectations need to be expressed and clarified so people know what is important to you, and it can be quite simple to do.  

It’s not that difficult to jot down a list of top ten minimum requirements for each team or role.  In fact, it is very powerful when this list is developed with the team leader or job holder.

An easy way of thinking about whether a standard is ‘set’ or not is to use this as a reminder:
S = specific – like the ‘S’ in SMART objectives (What specifically is to be achieved?)
E = explained – have you explained the standard and the reasons for it?  (Why does it need to be done?)  It is also very powerful to explain the consequences of not meeting the standard.  It’s worth noting that 60% of the population need a reason to be motivated and 40% need some sort of negative consequence to move away from in order to take action.
T = trained – have you ensured that people are given sufficient training and instruction? (How to achieve the required results) Research shows that 40% of people have to understand the steps to take or they will grind to a halt.

Measuring Attitude
Attitude is one of those elusive concepts that has been very difficult to pin down.  Everyone wants staff with ‘the right attitude’.  But what is the right attitude?  Recent developments in cognitive science and applied psychology mean that we can now identify a number of patterns that influence the language we use, our preferences and our behaviour.  In other words: our attitude.  Each job requires a unique attitude in order to be successful and every business has a unique culture that can inspire or crush that attitude.  So the ability to identify and measure the prevailing culture of the business set by the behavioural patterns of the senior team, and to measure the attitude required for success, can transform performance.

Some people love measurements.  They like the objective feedback and external benchmark to judge their performance.  Others hate them.  They feel oppressed by them and see them purely as a stick for management to beat them up with.  What is your opinion?

– What are the things you are measuring? 
– Are they giving you the results you want?
– How are you measuring attitude?
– How are you exploring and defining the attitude you want in your business?
– What are you doing to promote and encourage that attitude?

If you would like some very precise and quantifiable information about your attitude and the attitude of your people drop me a line at [email protected].

Remember . . . stay curious!

With best regards
David Klaasen
David Klaasen is director and owner of the niche HR consultancy, Inspired Working Ltd.  (http://www.inspiredworking.com/)
If you have a communication or performance problem and would like some objective advice drop him a line at
[email protected]

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