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Working with KPIs but not seeing the benefits you were promised? Or, just getting started with KPIs and don’t know your way around? Don’t sweat it! We’re here to uncover some of the most common mistakes organizations make when working with KPIs, to help you get them right.
Before we dive in, what really is a KPI? Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are an essential ingredient for an organization’s sustained growth. Organizations and teams use them to measure the performance of the ongoing efforts and activities that are key to their success. These are all the activities you’d need to monitor and measure on a continuous basis to ensure you’re keeping the lights on — your business as usual. (Looking for a deep-dive on KPIs? Check the KPI online guide.)
KPIs have been around for decades and tons of organizations across the globe use them. But they’re often misinterpreted and used incorrectly. That means many organizations aren’t experiencing the true impact KPIs can have on their business’s success. So, having helped thousands of organizations implement and master the use of KPIs at Perdoo, we’ll share the top 6 mistakes to avoid.
The 6 mistakes you should avoid when working with KPIs
Not thinking about your strategy or overall growth ambitions when setting KPIs
While KPIs help measure and track the ongoing performance of key areas of your business, they’re also a critical gauge to understand how you’re progressing toward your strategy and realizing growth. Therefore, not reflecting on your strategy and growth ambitions when setting KPIs can result in having a bunch of metrics at hand that have little to no impact on your business’s success.
Your strategy is the single source of truth — it provides overall direction for your entire organization, answering critical questions like what the purpose of your business is, where you need to go, and what you need to do in order to be successful. Your strategy isn’t time-bound, and since KPIs don’t have a due date (unlike OKRs), they’re the perfect type of goal to measure progress toward your strategy.
In Perdoo you can align KPIs to Strategic Pillars to actively monitor and visualize your strategy execution efforts.
On the other hand, your growth ambitions (ie. Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), lead to customer conversion rate, etc.) are the metrics that are going to lead your organization forward. These, too, are best represented as KPIs. If you don’t focus on your growth ambitions and your strategy when deciding on KPIs for your business, you run the risk of missing out on the “key” part of KPIs.
Our day-to-day is already inundated with tons of data and information. It’s often tempting to measure everything or the things that are easiest to measure. But is all that information key to your team and organization’s ongoing success? Probably not.
The danger with translating all the data points that your teams and organization interact with is that you lose a sense of focus, and ultimately the metrics that truly matter get diluted in the mix. For that reason, it’s important when setting KPIs to have those difficult conversations. Ask yourself and your team:
Do you consider the overall organization and/or certain areas of the organization healthy? Why or why not?
- If not, the metrics to nurture it back to health should be reflected as KPIs.
- If yes, those metrics that tell you that things are healthy should be reflected as KPIs too.
At this point, you may even have too many KPIs. Don’t avoid the hard choices on what’s key and what isn’t. In the next screening process, ask yourself:
- Is this really reflecting our most critical business as usual?
- Is this really a metric that we need to be looking at regularly?
Once you have your answers, reflect those priorities as KPIs.
Failing to act on KPI results
Your KPIs are your window into understanding how various parts of the business are doing — your health metrics. When these areas aren’t progressing as intended, it’s crucial to take timely action to ensure your business stays on the right track.
Here’s where Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) come to the rescue! When a KPI is unhealthy or you’ve set a new target to take it to the next level, you can create an OKR to improve your KPI. Such OKRs put the health of the KPI front and center, enforcing you to prioritize the efforts needed to achieve your target.
In Perdoo you can uniquely align an OKR to a KPI to help communicate the specific efforts being made to achieve the KPI’s target. When viewing a KPI you’ll also have historic reference to all the past aligned OKRs (if any) to see what worked and what didn’t.
Relying on industry benchmarks
There’s a treasure trove of industry and team-specific metrics, as well as target benchmarks available on the internet. They’re a great place to get inspiration from, but it’s important to keep in mind that what works for others may not necessarily work for you.
So, do your research to get a feel of what other organizations and teams similar to yours are doing. But then, sit down with your team, discuss what it is that’s essential for your success, and then reflect those priorities as KPIs. At this point, feel free to refer back to the questions in Point 2.
The same goes for targets. Use industry benchmarks to orientate yourself, but then set targets that are achievable for you. Circumstances always change — your forecasts and priorities may shift, or you may simply want to raise the bar higher — so, reflect these adjustments in your targets to make sure you’re continuously advancing toward your desired destination.
In Perdoo you can now add monthly targets to communicate those changes or advancements over a longer period of time.
Not making someone responsible for a KPI
We’ve found that the ownership of KPIs is a grey area for many organizations — should it be owned by a team, an individual, or should it be owned by anyone at all?
Well, when no one is responsible for a KPI, you risk uncoordinated and inaccurate measurement. There’ll be a lack of accountability. And, if everyone (ie. an entire team) is responsible, then you run into the risk of diffusion of responsibility — as the saying goes, “if everyone is responsible, no one is.”
It’s essential to make a single individual responsible for a KPI — the “lead”. That doesn’t mean that the lead is the only one working on the KPI but instead having that one person responsible centralizes accountability, putting them in charge of communicating what’s needed to keep it on track.
Not tracking KPIs alongside your OKRs
We’ve found that too many organizations track their OKRs in one place, while their KPIs are scattered across several different tools. You’ve got KPIs to monitor your business as usual work and the core responsibilities of each area of the business. But what about the goals that’ll actually help you execute your strategy? For that, many organizations use OKRs.
KPIs alone only tell half the story. Combine KPIs with OKR and you have the entire picture. Tracking them alongside each other provides you with full transparency into the priorities of each area of the business. When these goals are scattered across multiple tools, or even in a separate section of the same tool (eg multiple spreadsheets), it leads to misalignment and a lack of clarity.
Well, first things first — avoid making these six mistakes. But most importantly, don’t forget that your KPIs are that window into your organization’s health and the ongoing processes that keep the lights on. Set KPIs that best reflect your business’s priorities. Have the tools to ensure they’re leading you down the right path. And keep them flexible. KPIs aren’t set in stone, priorities change, and so do circumstances. Revisit and adjust your KPIs or their targets as needed.