Have you ever tried to implement metrics to measure work or impact and realized it is much harder than anticipated? Recently, a number of Wellspring clients have been interested in implementing new metrics, and I’ve noticed that there are a few key elements that are easily overlooked. There is more to successfully implementing and utilizing metrics than simply declaring you want to understand something; there are three key steps:
Five metrics that are well chosen and defined work better than 25 that nobody pays attention to. Useful metrics are often both broad and precise Broad metrics allow for just a few to be used across an entire organization or division. Yet, these must also be precise enough to get at the key indicators of the work being measured. Precision must go one step further to draw boundaries around the details of the metric. For example, measuring instances that your organization is mentioned in the media might is one indicator of visibility, but the strength of that metric is determined by how “media” is defined. Does it include social media? Does it account for whether the organization is mentioned by a credible news source versus a friend of the organization? Further still, what is considered a credible news source? These details must be defined before the metric can be implemented.
An organizational leader may define a set of great metrics, but can they be tracked using the organization’s current systems? This is just one of many tracking logistics that must be determined. Others include how often each metric will be tracked, what unit of measure will be used, and who will be responsible for tracking. Successful implementation often means having one person accountable for tracking, even if they get the data from various parts of the organization.
An organization can expend vast amounts of energy defining and tracking metrics, but if nobody looks at them to inform the leadership of the organization, it will have been a waste of energy. Reporting should be considered when defining metrics: understanding who will be using this information and for what ends can help identify what metrics need to be defined. Additionally, organizations will need to consider how often reports will be distributed, via what medium, and in what display. Reporting displays should make the metrics easy to interact with and to glean the information needed.
The road to metrics is often paved with good intentions, but without giving thought to each of these steps, metric implementation will likely be challenging and tough to utilize. At the same time, strong metrics can truly help an organization reflect on its work and improve into the future.