KPI’s – The Truth Is in the Numbers, Ignore Them at Your Own Peril
KPIs stands for “Key Performance Indicators” and are a mechanism by which individuals, departments and companies track their performance. If you do not have a good baseline and understanding of basic performance metrics, you will not know when you are slipping into mediocrity or worse. KPIs help keep everyone on track and moving towards goals.
Some people will excel and move up to higher levels of achievement and others will remain in entry-level positions their entire career. Many factors come into play when determining who will be successful and who will be mediocre or unsuccessful their entire lives. I, for one, have always desired the path of success. To that end, I use KPIs to track performance each month.
Good KPIs are not subjective but objective. They are very black and white and do not leave much in the way of wiggle room to debate their meaning. This is their power. As KPIs are tracked over time, the ability is gained to see how performance stacks up over prior months and years. Almost all of my KPIs I graph year-over-year. This allows me to compare performance over the last few months and the prior year. When I see something that is not within an expected range, I am able to look into it immediately and take action, including rewards for achievement, if needed.
In order to define good KPIs, I need a good understanding of the vision, mission, and goals of the company, department, or individual. Yes, I do believe that individuals need vision and mission statements and clearly defined goals to be successful.
Once I understand where the department or individual is coming from, and where they need to go, I can start working on KPI development. I follow a pretty basic and easy method for determining KPIs.
- Brainstorm to capture everything that can be empirically measured. As with all brainstorming, do not evaluate the quality of feasibility of the suggestions at this point. You want a complete brain dump of everything that can possibly be measured.
- Review the mission, vision, and goals. If working in a team, everyone needs to have a clear understanding of the mission, vision, and goals. If working on personal KPIs, also review job descriptions, annual reviews, and peer feedback.
- Group and rank each of these possible KPIs by their relevance and ability to provide clarity on the mission, vision, and goals of the company, department, or individual.
- Review the possible KPIs for feasibility of tracking. We may have some very good ideas for KPIs that are not realistic because the tracking mechanisms are too burdensome or simply unavailable. These KPIs go off on a separate list for possible future consideration or implementation of a tracking mechanism.
- Add the tracking frequency for each of the possible KPIs: Again, this is a second way of looking at feasibility and clarity the KPI will provide. If the KPI has to be tracked in a way that is prohibitive to implement it should be moved to the second list.
- Remove all possible KPIs that do not add value, provide clarity, or cannot be successfully tracked. If the list is still too long, I simply take the top X number of items per grouping.
- Develop a work plan to capture the KPI data points based off the data capture frequency.
- The first week of each month, compile all KPI information and generate Excel charts and summary tables. I review this information closely and look for any outliers. Anything that is above or below expectation is investigated and understood. While investigating unexpected improvements, always look and see if the source of improvement may be applicable to other areas.
As an example of KPIs for an IT department, they can track the total number of closed support tickets, initial response time, response time to close a ticket, recurrence rates, failure rates, up-time percentages, support hours, etc.
It is also very common to combine KPIs in your charts and tables. Using the above example, you could graph support hours and total number of closed tickets. When looking at this year-over-year, you should be able to see the effect of support hours on ticket closure rate. Furthermore, looking at these graphs, you can see if your team is closing support tickets at a faster or slower rate than prior periods.
Charting various KPIs are powerful tools when requesting additional resources or policy changes. This single activity alone has allowed it to influence policy and staffing decisions because I had the data to back up my requests.
I would challenge everyone to develop KPIs. Track them regularly and review the results monthly. After just a few months of tracking, you will be able to see patterns and start adjusting to further increase productivity and achievement of yourself, team, department, or company.