We’ve Agreed on our Strategic Vision, Now What?

I have a problem with key performance indicators (KPI’s). Matt Groening and Homer Simpson once famously said “Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true!”. I can’t accept an organization can be purely driven by numbers only. There are any number of ways to achieve a quantified outcome that may not align with the overall business objectives and vision of an organization. I am not questioning their importance however; they are a tremendously powerful method of measuring a business outcome, in fact my next blog will be all about the numbers. I am however questioning the ability of many complex businesses to guide their people toward a unified vision and linking that strategic activity to the key business outcomes that are leading the organization forward. Numbers don’t get people out of bed in the morning, often they are demotivational. I believe making people feel like they are part of a team, moving toward a common goal and being a part of shaping the future, with their efforts being recognized, certainly does.

So often the Senior Leadership team painstackling craft their vision, mission and possibly core strategies (or what ever you choose to call them), but then what? The next challenge is harder. So many organizations take an easier path, they jump directly to defining the multitude of KPI’s (I prefer the term metrics) to measure the desired outcome and assign them to people. In doing so they are outsourcing and distributing the responsibility of determining strategic direction (at a high-level) enterprise wide. The logic is that if we (management) can count the outcome, we must therefore be delivering on our corporate vision and mission, and this is not necessarily the case.

There is another way, define the high-level output of the organization first. Then recognize the expertise available within your people and teams and make those individuals accountable to decompose strategy further and in greater detail. As it is those people tasked with execution who are the domain experts, yet still ensuring their efforts maintain connection to overarching enterprise strategy.

In doing so, the plan will evolve, ownership is encouraged, and alignment is maintained. Now with a plan in place and a clear picture of the output of the organization, relevant metrics can be determined and those outcomes can be linked directly to output.

Next time we will discuss the numbers, those key business outcomes; how access is managed, gaining trust in the numbers and linkage to the strategic plan.