How Metrics Can Drive Strategic Growth & Profits

Metrics as part of strategy map free to use and share on bing

Let’s start with a critical question: How well do your company’s metrics (or KPIs – key performance indicators) help employees stay focused on delivering your company’s unique customer value?

The strategy map above shows the relationships between:

Strategy (Product Leaders / Efficient Operations / Customer Intimate)

Focus areas for Metrics (Financial / Customer / Processes / People, Knowledge)

and types of initiatives that support each strategy (Improve QC / Improve Distribution / Understand Customers / Develop Talent)

As we look at this map, we see examples in which infrastructure is well aligned with business strategy.

Most businesses use metrics to monitor performance across the company on a regular basis. How were your metrics chosen? Often-times, companies establish metrics based on the following:

  • Best Practices
  • Past Practices
  • Financials

Experience has shown that the best metrics positively impact the business results short and long term because they align with and therefore support the business strategy. Keeping people focused daily on delivering your competitive differentiation to customers is fundamental in driving growth.

I once worked with a small, privately owned machine shop in Worcester, MA. They were growing, and had about 35 employees when I worked with them. The 2 co-owners had a very clear strategy of Customer Intimacy. They traveled to see customers, knew their key customers well, and tailored their competitive differentiation to give customers what they wanted: top quality and quick turn-around. They repaired, reconditioned and replaced engine components for the aerospace and automotive industries. Their people, their processes and their policies were aligned to deliver top quality craftsmanship that met regulatory standards (i.e. FAA), fast. Customers could count on getting outstanding craftsmanship and receiving their parts within hours or days, dramatically minimizing down-time due to waiting for parts. Customers were willing to pay a premium for quick turn-around.

The company in the story above was very successful and, eventually, when the owners were ready to exit the business buyers came eagerly to the table. Aligning their organization, including its metrics, with the strategy kept people continuously focused on what was most important. Their communications held people’s attention, guiding priority setting and decision making each day.

What do you see as the implications of basing metrics on Best Practices, Past Practices and Financials versus basing them on the business strategy?

As we think about this, we recognize that using metrics based on Best Practices, Past Practices and Financials can shift attention away from the business strategy. Using metrics that are misaligned with the strategy can drive activities that hinder or prevent effective execution of the business strategy. Can you think of a Best Practice your organization has implemented (i.e. to improve efficiency) that brought about changes in procedures and metrics that would conflict with a business strategy of Customer Intimacy and Customization?

Think more about Best Practices or Past Practices implemented in your experience. Which ones aligned with the business strategy? Which ones were out of alignment with the business strategy? What was the impact on people, customers and organizational performance? Often-times, the impact includes confusion, conflict between functions, and lackluster performance. What, based on your experience and observations, might you add?

Developing effective Metrics is key to strategy execution. Metrics should be aligned with the business strategy and metrics should be “balanced” – that is, there should be both lagging and leading measures.

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Most of us are very familiar with Lagging Indicators; Lagging measures are Financial, looking back on performance that has already occurred. Leading Indicators are forward-looking, proactive measures that provide visibility (into problems) that can prompt root cause analysis and problem resolution early enough to mitigate their impact on results.

We can use leading indicators to identify problems and develop solutions early. For example, increased Scrap created in production can lead to a number of outcomes — i.e. operating costs will likely increase due to additional labor and materials if people don’t act quickly to find the root cause and implement an effective solution. Another example of a leading indicator is an increase in unplanned Employee Turnover; turnover in key areas could cause certain goals to be missed without early intervention.

A good explanation of leading and lagging indicators is available from the Business Intelligence Blog. Use this link: http://biblog.arcplan.com/tag/leading-vs-lagging-indicators/

Balanced metrics need to be communicated, measured and discussed often enough to keep everyone focused and to allow time for benefit to be realized from corrective actions taken in response to leading indicators. Discussions must be held using terms, stories and examples relating to the work all of your people do, to have meaning for everyone. Providing a 1- page visual “map” as a basis for discussions can help employees to understand and more fully utilize the information.

I believe the best source of information about developing and using a Balanced Scorecard is the book by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, “The Balanced Scorecard”, which can be found at Amazon using this link: http://www.amazon.com/Balanced-Scorecard-Translating-Strategy-Action/dp/0875846513/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376957078&sr=1-1&keywords=balanced+scorecard

Using the right metrics can help your people to provide your customers with higher value through focused strategic effort. Focused strategic effort reduces cost and increases profit. And, higher value provided to customers creates growth.

This article is the fourth in our series, The 5 Keys To Strategy Execution.

The 5 Keys are:

  1. Strategic Understanding
  2. Leadership
  3. Activities and Structure
  4. Balanced Metrics aka Strategy Map
  5. Human Capital

Together with Market Discipline, these comprise the recipe for successful strategic performance.

Our next article will focus on the 5th Key: Human Capital along and will discuss Market discipline, the cornerstone for strategy alignment and execution.

  • How do your metrics relate to your company’s value proposition? • How well do they guide and focus people on delivering your company’s unique customer value — every day? • Is there an effective blend of lagging and leading indicators? • What changes need to be made?

Please share your insights and opinions in comments!

Rosanna Nadeau is the Principal/Consultant with Prism Perspectives Group, LLC. Focusing on improving organization performance, PPG delivers results through uncommon, high-impact tools and consulting approaches, as a partner with leaders from initial consultation through solution implementation and measurement. PPG provides employee and management development programs ( www.TrainingForImpact.com ) and H.R. Management services ( www.HRBoutique.net ). To receive our free monthly newsletter or obtain more information visit www.PrismPerspectivesGroup.com or send email to Rosanna@PrismPerspectivesGroup.com .

 

REV.: 2/3/2015

 

 

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Last Update: 1/21/15.