The “Why” Behind a Metric – Professional Growth Systems

The “Why” Behind a Metric

Those of you who have used our Vision Navigation® strategic planning process know that we include in each project the question of whether the effectiveness of the strategy can be measured. We call this part of the process “defining a metric”. What we are trying to do here is not measure whether or not you have reached your goal or target for the project, but whether doing so made a difference.

Adding the strategic metric to our process came about around 20 years ago, when we began working with a new client and asked the board whether a certain strategy they had invested in was effective.  The board’s goal had been to improve educational outcomes for its shareholders, and they had chosen to use some of the organization’s profits to do so.  Their strategy was to invest in supportive services for their shareholder university students while they were enrolled at the state university.  They had been doing this for ten years.

strategic metricWe simply asked, “How is this going?”  No one knew the answer.  We then asked, “How would you know if you were successful with this strategy?”.   Answer, “By the number of graduates”.  Question, “How many graduates have you had?”  Answer, “We don’t know”.  A bit of research was done, and the answer was “zero”.  Had they known this years earlier, no doubt the board would have urged management to alter the strategy so that they could realize a return on their investment and better support the educational outcomes of the shareholders.

This experience prompted us to continue to ask the question of other clients we worked with, and we often found the same results.  That is, board and management only knew if what they wanted to implement was, in fact, being implemented, but they hadn’t measured whether or not it was working. Was it achieving its intended goal?

The result? We added a metric for each strategic and internal project to our planning process and also added an Instrument Panel (a series of metrics to measure to overall health of the business) to our product offering.

As leaders of  your organization, you need to know whether the strategies you have chosen to grow and strengthen your organization are working.  When the data shows they are not achieving their intended goal, you need to revise them or drop them altogether.  When the data shows that they are working, you may choose to expand the strategy or consider additional investments to further grow what is going well.  In order to make this judgment, however, you have to have sound data.  Data that measures the results and impacts of your strategies.

Interested in learning more? See our previous posts on building effective metrics and using your metrics.  And if you would like help designing a metric, e-mail us.. We would be happy to help you get started.