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Basics of Measuring – Counting & Judging Key Metrics

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Fri, Jun 18, 2010

How does one measure performance?

The basics to measuring are counting and judging.  Counting is the best, since judging is subjective. Judging is a backup when counting can't be achieved.

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This blog will provide some basics of measuring key metrics, however if you want more ideas on this I'd recommend Aubrey Daniels Bringing Out the Best in People, Chapter 11 Effective Use of Measurements.

In counting, rate is a good measurement; just remember that nothing is easy to measure if the performer doesn't wish to be measured.  We discussed the circumstances for this in my last blog, You Can't Measure What I Do.  It's important to recognize that when you are counting you need to pair improvements in performance with positive reinforcement.  If you don't do this you'll only see marginal gains.  [Does this explain the reason your last measurement didn't get the improvement you desired?]

Another important aspect of counting is using raw measurements versus percentages.  Daniels points out that percentages do not add any new information and practically always masks useful data.  In baseball a batter could be hitting .666 as an example, yet if he's only had 3 plate appearances this is hardly representative of what kind of hitter he is.  Only after more appearances can we judge his ability.  In his book he provides a very useful tool "Lindsley's Learning Pictures" that help spot problems which often are undetected when using percentages and ratios. 

Judging can be difficult because as we all know from watching too many Olympics things appear to be arbitrary.  By establishing specific criteria and having two or more people do the judging subjectivity can be reduced but never completely eliminated.  Daniels recommends constructing a Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale [BARS]. These are usually developed by employees, the boss and/or team.  Again an example of this is provided in Bringing Out the Best in People

Once again criticism for judging can be reduced by providing positive reinforcement when measuring.

Whenever measuring recognize the importance of rating versus ranking.  Often times we like to rank staff to show who's best.  The problem with this is that it sets one employee against another.  This may be difficult to resist since many of us like to feel or see who is best, however you need to realize that it is demotivating to the losers.  None of us intentionally hire losers, yet when we rank versus rate we are sending a message that some of our people aren't as good.

Compare performance against established criteria whenever you can.  It's possible then for everyone to meet the required criteria to be seen as a top performer.

Most businesses and business owners today want to see immediate improvement.  We're impatient to see results.  We're looking for the quick fix.  I discourage this as often as I can, because most improvements do not occur suddenly.  Daniel's agrees. However having a way to measure small improvements is critical to success.  Measurement used to set the occasion for positive reinforcement has benefits that you may never have imagined. 

In 1984 George Orwell wrote a book that predicted the future.   Ironically a product appeared that same year that has had a profound impact on how you and your employees behave and respond at work, and dramatically influenced the importance of positive reinforcement.  Next blog: The Dawn of Impatience

Topics: Accountability, Discipline Plan, Quantification, Key Metrics

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

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