Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How Do You Make People Use KPIs?

I love this question from recent Measure Up subscriber Yevhen, a Performance Manager in a large organization: "How do you make people use KPIs?"

The short answer is, you don't.

A slightly longer answer is to explore what WIIFM means and why it applies to performance measurement. WIIFM is the well-known acronym for "what's in it for me?" and the idea is that if you want someone to change or to do something they don't currently do, you've got no chance or Buckley's unless they believe there's some real value for them in doing so.

Change is incredibly hard for humans to do, without a very significant impetus for changing. John Kotter, author of "Leading Change", would call that impetus a burning platform, an essential input to any sustainable change. That burning platform has to speak to the personal values of the person or people you want to change. It's why most people don't exercise regularly or eat healthy food. They don't have a "why" to change that's bigger than the "why" to stay as they are. No exercise means no pain and eating processed snacks out of packets tastes good. Exercise means pain and sweat and eating healthy is more expensive and green stuff like kale tastes funky and takes longer to chew.

But let's say someone discovered they had heart disease, and in no small part due to their poor diet and lack of exercise. Now their "why" to change is much bigger than their "why" to stay as they are. Now they're more likely to be counting their calories, tallying up the number of hours of exercise they do, monitoring their heart rate, and measuring their waistline and body weight. Their heart disease is their burning platform.

You can't make people use their KPIs. Only they can do that. As performance measurement practitioners, our job is to help people objectively and clearly see the real choice they're making by not using their KPIs, to see what cool things could happen if they did, to look down and see their burning platform. It will be different for different people, so understanding their values and the goals that are important to them is your first step. Then explore how using KPIs can help them better live those values and reach those goals and avoid their platform burning out from under them.

Thanks to Stacey Barr Pty Ltd.

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