We all want better information available at our fingertips on how we're doing. Unfortunately, we typically measure performance using data that, while readily available, doesn't tell us much. Linking specific metrics to your strategic plan is a more holistic approach to setting up a performance management program.

You can reverse engineer the process by starting with your end goal. This step gets you (and by extension your management team) focused on what is strategically important (outcomes) rather than simply what is easily measured (data, process, and output). Every program and organization needs a blend of each of these four categories.

The problem is that we tend to load up on measures at the front end of this process, at the expense of looking closely at the actual outcomes we're achieving. There is a better way.

Reverse Engineering Performance Measurement

The idea is that you'd walk through each step backwards (outcome, output, process, then data) in a simple flow chart and ask yourself and your management team the following questions:

  1. What outcomes are we trying to achieve? List a few, and give them deadlines, if possible. An example of an outcome might be something like, "A safer and healthier work place."
  2. What program outputs are ongoing or completed? An example could be "Number of safety issues addressed through completed projects."
  3. What processes are being tested? A process example is, "Health and safety inspections completed with work orders generated in the system."
  4. What supporting data is needed? To close out this example, the data might include the number of buildings with asbestos or estimated remediation cost.

It helps to have your desired outcomes handy. These should be in your strategic plan--although they might be a little vague. That's okay. Spend (a little) time tweaking, if needed.

While not always easy, this is a straightforward approach to rebooting your measures approach and getting everyone focused on the desired outcomes -- a big win for all programs.