Why KPI’s both matter and don’t matter.

I can see that there is a lot written in the areas around measuring performance and that this cripples a companies’ creativity, that this can suffocate a company.

Two blogs i recently enjoyed reading on the subject are Barefoot Sales Process and Look Past the Measurements.

The purpose of a KPI usually comes with good intentions, but as they say…

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

We cannot ignore the fact that KPI’s are extemely powerfull, used in the right way with the right measurement.

I am a runner, as my VP Stefan is. We both have set the goal of running Lidingöloppet (30k in tough terrain). We discuss running a lot, we have totally different approaches to running. Stefan runs with his gut, if it feels good, he is content and as a goal for the race his ambition is to keep a good pace, but to leave some energy for the last 10k. He has no program, he will run as often as he can and run as far as he feels like at that time. I have a different approach, a set target for this race, a time I want to achieve, so I have put together a training program based on last year’s training program. I have a goal and a plan.

My strategy is to train hard without getting injured. My vision is to feel good, to feel fit. This is where Stefan and I agree.

My plan is ambitious. To achieve the goal, I need to train in tougher terrain this year compared to last year. I have two KPI’s for operational measurements, two for tactical, and one for reaching my goal.

For each training in the plan there is a purpose of how it will influence my physique. So as operational KPI’s I have heartrate and pace as a feedback every 5 minutes. This helps me pace my training to reach the development it intends to provide. After each training I try to reflect on the general feel of my health, to see if I am in tune with my strategy.

Every week I look at the summery and how it compares to the other weeks. My KPI’s are average pace, to see if I’m moving in the direction, and distance, because I need to reach a certain level of endurance. The distance is a measurement that needs to be in line with my plan. If I don’t reach the distance I could change the plan for the week to follow.

To reach my goal I have one KPI and this is my best pace, this needs to go down to a certain minutes per km and then stay below this level.

Now all I have to do is stick to my plan, no matter what the weather is or if I don’t feel like running.

There is no right or wrong in the different approaches, but in Stefan’s case it would be a waste of time to use my KPI’s, even if we were to have the same goal.

This is where the confusion begins
The tricky part is if we are asked to pass on our experience, or if we are supposed to report our progress to a coach. Once again, the right KPI’s are of value, but not without presenting the correct arguments. You need to sell the KPI to the people providing the information. There needs to be a clear understanding of:
1. The purpose of the KPI (WHY)
2. When is the result presented, what frequency (WHEN)
3. How to report, how to read the result (HOW)
4. Who takes part of the report (WHO)

If you get a buy in on all points there is no problem, if you don’t, well you might have your work cut out for you…


3 Replies to “Why KPI’s both matter and don’t matter.”

  1. Ok- it’s a cliche but
    You get what you measure
    A simple statement but the trick I belive is to be be clear and together in your goal setting
    Most importantly the result must trigger action to be better
    If your goal is to run unmeasured and not set times but to get fitter, that works – that is the qualitative measure so often forgotten


    1. Cliche or not, I think you’re spot on Jonathan. The problem the other blogs bring up is when companies take KPI’s because they are standard or out of the box in the system they have. If the KPI’s are not in tune with how you can reach your goal, they are a waste ofe time and energy. I wanted to make an example of how two ways of measuring can be used on the same goal and as you write, sometimes qualitative measurements are forgotten. Thanks for your comments!


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