How to Revamp Your Organization’s Performance Measures

Want to inspire a synchronized groan in your next management meeting?  Suggest a review and revamping of your program’s performance measures. If your organization is anything like mine—or the federal clients I support—measures accumulate over time.  There are fits and spurts of inspiration (largely from the top down) that always start with a questions like, “How many cows did we tip last month?” There is invariably someone within earshot who scurries off to find the answer, responds successfully, then is rewarded with reporting on sideways cows from now to eternity.

The whole purpose of performance measurement is, in fact, lost amid the huge workload needed just to comply.  After pulling the data together, doing the QA, producing the report, and drafting a couple of bullets points on the delta from last cycle, who has the time or energy to actual consider the management action needed to change the outcome?  Not many.

While compliance matters, measures grow and expand over time without a lot of weed-picking along the way. So, organizations end up with 1) way more than they need and 2) time and money invested in maintaining a set that doesn’t meet their needs.

This performance measure proliferation is fixable! I’ve recently been working with a handful of federal facility managers on culling their measures and thinking strategically about what they need and, perhaps more importantly, what their counterparts in the “field” need. 

The first step is to inventory your current measures (here's one table to get started).

Sample Performance Measures Inventory and Alignment Table

Sample Performance Measures Inventory and Alignment Table

Once you write down all of your monthly, quarterly, annual reporting requirements, I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how many you actually track.

Next, plot these against your strategic plan—mission, vision, goals, and objectives (here’s one simple table that might help jumpstart the effort).  This exercise is best done with a little prep work by a few but later expanded to include a facilitated session with the management team.  As you complete the table, you’ll immediately notice some gaps, as well as, notice number of measures that will leave people pondering—“so, WHY do we care about that?”

Simply identifying the gaps is an important step forward.  A lot of us don’t have the authority to unilaterally disarm.  Obviously, opting out of federal reporting mandates isn’t typically an option but there is value in objectively raising questions with senior leadership and OMB when the program isn’t seeing the intended value.

So, while you might irk your coworkers (temporarily) with the suggestion, revamping measures helps save precious program time, as well as, ultimately improve performance.  After all, that’s the goal, right?