Ever heard this phrase? More than likely you have and if you haven’t, stick around in the industry long enough and you will. Although this phrase gets thrown around each time there are discussions about organizational performance, it happens for a good reason: it’s true.
Management and business gurus long ago figured out that measuring organizational performance was the surest way to ensure that processes were efficient, goals met and benefits realized. The terms most used to describe the tools of the measurement trade are:
Balanced Scorecard: is a strategic planning and management system that is used extensively in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide to align business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization.
Key Performance Indicators: are things we measure and monitor to find out how well something is working. Think of them as dials that you look at on the balanced scorecard to tell you how well the organization is doing.
If an organization uses these tools to affect the positive outcome of its day-to-day business, then why not apply the same tools to oneself?
Defining Key Performance Indicators
The main reason we measure any process is to determine its efficiency and effectiveness. I’ve spent a lot of my waking hours the past year working on strategy alignment and KPIs for a major global organization. One thing that I’ve learned from this experience is that figuring out what things actually constitute being a key performance indicators isn’t always intuitive or easy.
One way to determine what constitutes key in performance indicators is to ask these questions:
What do I need to measure/know that will illustrate I’m achieving my vision? My strategy?
What needs to be done to keep moving in the strategic direction?
What are my key processes? How do I know if a process is effective and/or efficient?
The answers from these questions will reveal for you the critical actions, processes, and directions you must head to achieve a goal, your objectives and ultimately your vision.
If this sounds like goal accomplishment basics, then good. You’re not reading something new. But how are you doing in applying this to your life?
KPIs for The Every Day
Let’s make the leap from business to personal life. What might it look like to apply key performance indicators to every day life? You can begin by asking the questions stated above. Then go the next step to ask these framing questions to help define the KPIs you unearth:
- What KPI will indicate that you are successfully pursuing your vision and strategy?
- How many KPIs should you have? (Enough, but not too many!)
- How often should you measure?
- Who is accountable for the KPI? (Asked if you have an assistant.)
- How complex should the KPI be? (As simple as possible! Too hard and you might stop measuring it.)
- What should you use as a benchmark?
- How do you ensure the KPI reflects strategic drivers for success? (Ask the questions from the previous section at least every 6 months.)
- How could the KPIs be cheated, and how will you guard against this?
Unless you have someone who will do the measurement for you, I recommend you keep your personal KPIs simple. The more complex they are, the less likely you are maintain the discipline to measure them and the less likely you’ll be able to measure them accurately enough.
I’ve found in my own experience that the more complex the measurement process or the more time it takes to collect the data, the harder it was for me to maintain consistency. One recent example was my use of a popular activity tracker. I finally jettisoned it after 6 months of attempting to maintain fastidious records on my diet and exercise activities. The reason was that it required me each day to input data and I determined that the intricate measures weren’t actually contributing to helping me move towards my health goals. Something else was.
Using Key Performance Indicators to Manage Your Life
I’m continually searching for different individual self-improvement KPIs. From what I’ve uncovered, here are 5 key performance indicators that will help you in the long run:
- Physical Exercise. One of the best KPIs that can be used for self-improvement is assessing your physical training. Each of us knows the importance of exercise to individual performance – physical and mental. There is a plethora of ways to measure this, from pen/paper to electronic activity trackers. Figure out what works for you and begin tracking your PT.
- Social interactions. Interaction with others is important…that is quality interaction. We are social animals, even the most introverted among us. Because of this, consider tracking your social interactions for quality and quantity. Being connected will boost your confidence and your mental performance simply from knowing there others out there, connected to you. Social media is one way to accomplish this, however, I’ll recommend it not be used. Instead, track phone, face-to-face, and written correspondence.
- Weight. Linked with physical exercise above, your weight will prove to be the most important KPI in terms of self-development. If you want to make sure that you keep on improving yourself, maintaining an ideal weight – that is the weight for you age, build, etcetera – is very important. It will effect your thoughts, beliefs, feelings and actions and will either be an a performance enhancer or a performance killer. Keep a check on this.
- Career satisfaction. This is an effective qualitative KPI. Quite simply, how satisfied are you with the work you do? Career satisfaction acts as an über important factor in our overall satisfaction in life. If you’ve ever felt dissatisfied with your career for an extended period of time, you’ll know exactly how much of a negative impact it can have every aspect of your life.
- Mental Development. Sharpening the saw or developing mental discipline through meditation, reading, or study are sure-fire ways to kick your self-improvement to a new level. Or keep it at a high level if your already doing these mental activities. Over the long-haul, a consistent mental development program is as useful, if not more so, than a consistent physical training regimen.
Notice that these five each have to do with your physical, mental and spiritual health. There’s a reason for this: number of reps of a particular exercise or the number of Oreo’s you eat each contribute to your overall performance in life. Measuring these five areas, either qualitatively or quantitatively, on a routine basis (e.g. monthly, quarterly) will keep you in tune with your feelings in general, which will impact actions you ultimately take towards your personal objectives and goals.
Check out the “Truth and Clarity” self-improvement measurement spreadsheet if you’re interested in implementing a KPI-based system for yourself. I can’t remember where I came across this tool, but for the past few years I’ve maintained a quarterly, qualitative assessment of myself across these nine categories. Although qualitative, the factors are represented by quantitative numbers, which allows me to track trends.
More than anything, this exercise has proven useful for keeping me aimed towards my strategy and vision. It’s also been useful as a self-communication tool – of being truthful with myself about performance and maintaining clarity about where I’ve been and where I’m going.
“What gets measured gets improved.” ~ Robert Sharma
Christian J. Knutson, P.E., PMP
Engineering Management Institute
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