How to get started with KPIs, even if you have been putting it off for years

A confession

I know how hard it can be to get started with KPIs. Here’s my confession. As a small business specialising in KPIs I measured shockingly little for the first few years. Having stalled but then later realised the the benefits of my own approach, I think I have insight into some of the reasons behind KPI procrastination.

Here are my reasons…

1) It feels like a big task
2) No one is nagging me to do it, and it feels lower priority than [insert excuse here] 3) In your heart-of-hearts you feel like you have a good enough grasp on your business without using KPIs and measures

If one or more of these apply to you, here’s your action plan to get moving on your KPIs….

1) It can feel like a big task to get started with KPIs

Truth is, just measuring one important thing is a big progression over measuring nothing.

Action: Commit to measuring and reviewing one important thing on a regular basis. If taking a ‘baby steps’ approach doesn’t work for you there’s a brilliant approach that Robert Middleton has created called ‘Unstuck’. It’s 12 questions to ask yourself if you are stuck not doing something. Here’s his method in a nutshell

Robert Middleton’s Unstuck Method

  • Where are you stuck, or what are you avoiding?
  • What do you feel when you’re experiencing this?
  • How do you behave when you are experiencing this? What is the belief underneath the avoidance?
  • You’re convinced the belief is true, but is it?
  • Is this belief working for you?
  • What are the costs of attaching to that belief?
    • What is the payoff of attaching to that belief?
    • Is the payoff real, and is it worth it?
  • Who would you be, if it were impossible to attach to this belief?
  • What possibilities might open up to you if you no longer identified with that belief?
  • Is it OK just be who you are without having this belief anymore?
  • What will you do next?

I’d recommend his book The Unstuck Process if you’d like to find out more. Here’s Robert’s web site too.

2) No one is nagging me to do it

If your business is static (or even shrinking) it’s should be clear that you need to change your approach. Generally those ‘things you should do’ live in the top right hand box of an Eisenhower Matrix. Measurement is a classic ‘important but not urgent’ activity. Commit to measurement, do it properly and I promise you that you will see long term benefit. Important-but-not-urgent activities need to be scheduled and done, not postponed.

Action: Block out 30 mins in your diary now to get started with measurement.

Illustration of man in suit searching for success with metal detector

3) You feel like you have a good enough grasp on your business without using KPIs

This is probably the hardest barrier to overcome. We all have a ‘reality distortion’ field that surrounds us. It’s incredibly rare to find someone who professes to be a poor driver, having a weak sense of humour or admits to not being good at spotting liars. Car insurance premiums, the popularity of Christmas cracker jokes and the number of people who fall for Ponzi schemes suggest at least some of the population are deceiving themselves some of the time.

Action: Accept that there’s a chance you have a distorted or partial view of your business. Commit to measuring at least one thing well, and be open to the information that KPI conveys. The first time you are surprised by what your [verified] KPI shows you, you should be a convert.

Hint: Make your first KPI focus on something that is frustrating you, or is super-critical to your business as your initial measure.

Follow these three methods to get started with KPIs and you should start to see real benefits coming from your measurement, instead of a sense of guilty unease.

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