Help! My KPIs Don’t Work! 5 Steps to Make Your KPIs Work for You

By Patrick Thean

dateMon, Oct 27, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Jack asked me to help him with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). He had about 30 - 40 of them that his executive team was reviewing every week. “Sure,” I said, “As long as you allow me to audit your KPIs andpay-253618_1280 get rid of the ones that are not useful. You will be left with about nine to twelve after we are done. Are you okay with that?”

There was a long pause on the phone before Jack answered. “Really? But what about the other twenty plus KPIs that you would throw out? What if they are were in fact useful after all?”

It’s scary to clean your KPI house. It is scary to stop measuring stuff that you are used to measuring and have been measuring for years. It’s normal to be scared. It’s called inertia. Change is difficult, and giving up stuff is really difficult.

Here's the real question: Do your KPIs work?

Jack asked me how I would know which KPIs to throw out. “Oh, the ones that don’t work. These are the ones that don’t prompt you or trigger you to have discussions and take action based on their measurements. If you are not prompted to take action by these KPIs, they are no longer working for you. And if your KPIs are not working for you, then you are working for them. You are spending precious time and energy measuring, without receiving benefit in return.”

Are you working for your KPIs or are your KPIs working for you?

Here is the difference. You are working for your KPIs if takes a lot of time to measure and compile the data into a beautiful report that folks don’t review and don’t use to take much action. Your KPIs are working for you if you and your team cannot wait to review the KPIs and discuss what the numbers mean. What actions do you have to take based on these numbers? KPIs need to work for you. They need to be the leading indicators to tell you that something needs to be done based on their numbers.

Tip: Instead of measuring everything that moves, measure the things that you want to move.

Here’s why you don’t want a lot of KPIs. If you have too many KPIs, they can literally blind you. You also won’t have enough time and energy to discuss and take action when your attention is spread over 30 or 40 KPIs. Instead, consider using KPIs to help you to focus. That means choosing fewer KPIs and applying your energy to take good focused action. Measure the things you want to move!

Here’s another tip: Don’t be afraid to change up your KPIs. Use KPIs in a pointed way to focus your team and get proactive. When you no longer feel the need to focus on a certain area, replace that KPI. Often times, people just add more KPIs to the list without removing any. And over time, the list of KPIs just gets too long and overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to review and prune on a regular rhythm.

Here is a 5 step process to review and get your KPIs working for you again!

Step 1: Review all your KPIs. What are you measuring and why? Here are some questions to help you audit your KPIs. For each KPI:

  • What was the original purpose?
  • Have you outgrown the original purpose?
  • What actions are triggered by this KPI when it registers red or yellow?


Step 2: Re-establish and confirm the purpose of each KPI you choose to keep.

  • What is the reason or purpose for this KPI? Why do we care?
  • What is the success criteria? Can you Red-Yellow-Green it?
  • What would you do (Actions) if that KPI went red or yellow?


Step 3: What’s new in your business?

  • Anything happening these days that you need to keep a pulse on?
  • Anything new keeping you up at night? How we we measure that?
  • Do you know how to measure if things are going wrong? Getting off track?


Step 4: Get your KPIs into a visual dashboard with a 13-Week trend for all to see.

  • KPIs in hiding don’t work either.
  • Get your KPIs into a dashboard that you can status every week, and see how the status is trending.


Step 5: Educate and set expectations.

  • Do not assume that your team will know how to react to the measurements of these KPIs.
  • Educate them on the purpose and how to react when these KPIs are red or yellow.


Download Free  KPI Guide

Patrick Thean


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images