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Posted by on Jan 22, 2014 in BOLD, Business, Culture, Featured, Inspirational, Leadership, Talent | 2 comments

BOLD: KPIs – Measuring What Really Matters

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The idea of KPIs are intoxicating and seductively alluring. The argument, “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t matter” produces the anti-thesis, “If you CAN measure it, it must matter.” Reality is, BOTH of these statements are partially true. Somewhere in the middle lies what is actually practical and effective.

To prove this point, try measuring the value of a healthy tickle session with your child. Can’t exactly measure it, but it definitely matters. In the business world, an individual who feels they are valued and flourishing as a human being because of the quality of their working environment is also tough to measure. This absolutely matters. As a matter of fact, quality performance depends on it.

An individual who feels they are valued and flourishing as a human being because of the quality of their working environment is also tough to measure. This absolutely matters.

The biggest problem with performance KPIs is that they define what needs to be accomplished in order to have satisfactory performance. What they fail to define is how to do it. That is what your organizational culture is meant to do. If your performance KPIs aren’t aligned with your culture, your culture will always lose.

Another issue with performance KPIs is that they blind people to ancillary activity that is required to achieve excellence. Sure they met the performance KPI, but they left a wake of destruction in their path achieving it. Office politics. Unethical behavior. Misrepresentation or outright lying. All potential results of solely focusing on performance. This is especially true with the proverbial “stretch goals”.

The reality being ignored in all of this is that human beings who flourish are naturally productive. They are healthy (physically, emotionally and psychologically) and have the energy, proper motivation and ability to accomplish the most incredible things. A focus on growth, without addressing health is a cancer. A focus on health, naturally results in growth. It’s a simple biotic principle.

A focus on growth, without addressing health is a cancer. A focus on health, naturally results in growth. It’s a simple biotic principle.

It is important to have standards – like KPIs – however those standards must support and expose excellence, not restrict ideas and flexibility to achieve excellence.

When they do the latter, they shortcut the value brought by the human potential of the talent in your organization. A sole focus on performance assumes the prescribed way, as defined by the KPI, is the only and best way to provide value from a performance perspective.

The challenge with providing only performance-based metrics is it places the onus squarely on the employee to benefit the organization. There is little responsibility placed on the organization to benefit the employee. The employer-employee relationship is symbiotic, not one where the employer assumes the role of a benefactor who coaxes the cooperation of the employee through financial contribution.

Leadership that focuses on human flourishing does a number of things:

  1. It facilitates having a healthy (physical, emotional, psychological) workforce. This means lowered costs that typically come from absenteeism, unhealthy conflict, unproductive competition, lack of cooperation, etc.
  2. It establishes a culture where the individual matters. This translates into how teamwork is accomplished, how value is created and how customers are treated. All of these improve performance, add value and increase profitability.
  3. It gives freedom to leaders to decide the best way to help their team members flourish in a way that benefits the individual as well as the organization. Taking away the prescriptive nature allows for variance that is fair AND effective based on circumstance and individual needs.
  4. It bolsters engagement. Engagement is a response to the emotion created by your culture. A culture that focuses on human flourishing produces very appealing emotions. The natural response from engagement is behavior and that is what drives performance.

I would love to hear some of your stories where human flourishing positively affected the performance of your team or organization. Leave them in the comments below!

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Image credit: deedl / 123RF Stock Photo

 

William Powell

William is the Executive Director of The Leadership Advisor, an OD consulting company that works that globally with organizations in the areas of leadership, culture and employee engagement. His message "Human Flourishing is Profitable" has helped earn him the distinction of being an ambassador for the European Workplace Innovation Network (EUWIN), which is supported by the European Commission. William is a playful, witty and painfully honest speaker with a no non-sense approach. He is also the author of Personal Ecology: Self Management and the Art of Cultivating Healthy Relationships.

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  • Spark the Action

    William, excellent use of the mathematical inequality of ‘measurement and value’ – it is so easy to get lost in generating data that we can lose site of what is truly most valuable. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Best regards,
    Carl
    @SparktheAction

  • William Powell

    Happy you picked up on that, Carl. Business has become more complex and we must adapt to that, but not in place of continuing to simply focus on value in that process.

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