In my last post, I shared more tips for what to measure to determine employee engagement levels and programme success. Today, I want to talk a bit about when you should measure. The timing of measurement is critical because results can be so easily manipulated depending on when you establish metrics and then measure against them.

Jacqueline Kosecoff, chief executive of Prescription Solutions, a UnitedHealth Group company, expressed this well in a recent interview in the New York Times.

“Before I begin the execution phase of any project, I sit down with my team and we ask ourselves: ‘What are the metrics against which we’re going to measure our success?’ Another thing I learned was that when you’re involved in a large development project, projects often morph. And when people become advocates of their project, they change some of those metrics so that they can claim success when perhaps it’s not 100 percent legitimate to do so.”

And therein lies the rub – determining your metrics before execution begins, then faithfully measuring and reporting against those metrics, even if the outcome isn’t what was hoped. Negative results can be the most valuable as they show you the areas where you most need to improve. Creating a culture in which such failure is permitted is important to allowing the space for continual improvement.

But the bottom line is, if you don’t know what you’re working towards before you begin, how will you know when you’ve arrived?

What has been your experience in establishing metrics for programme measurement? Do you have specific targets for success (e.g., 5% improvement in X by the end of year)? Or do you simply ask for “improvement?” Such wishy-washy goals can easily be manipulated, keeping you from understanding the reality of your programme and achieving the real results you need – increased employee commitment to the company and desire to contribute discretionary effort in the areas necessary for company success.

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