You’ve probably heard some variation on this saying attributed to Peter Drucker: ‘what gets measured gets managed’. That makes a lot of sense: if you place a spotlight on an aspect of performance, you’re going to manage it the best you can so you can improve or justify what you’re doing. What happens, however, when you’re managing the wrong thing?
I often see organisations coming up with things to measure based on what they can easily extract from their systems, or constructing measures that will look good based on what they have to work with or what’s occurred. I don’t mean to imply that this is because they’re being wily and duplicitous. Rather, it tends to be a result of the organisation setting goals without specific targets and measures attached – or at least not ones that they’ve thought through.
Good performance management starts with setting the right goals and making sure you have the means of measuring performance against them. This means tackling the difficult questions of how the organisation is really doing and how you can know it. Otherwise, rather than managing performance, you’re stuck managing the measures. Time and effort spent struggling to retrospectively figure out what you can do with the information that you have means time and energy not spent on improving performance.
One performance measurement space in which organisations often slip up is customer service.