We've all heard the saying, “What gets measured gets done.” Why is so important to measure? Because it keeps you focused and you can use that information to make decisions to improve your results. Measurement is a critical ingredient of action and drives value. This indirectly tells us that when we want to drive actions in a certain direction or aspirational direction we need to focus on the right measurement.
When I was leading operations for a large corporation, we faced a behavioural challenge which had led one of the company’s critical KPI (key performance indicator) to slip down. Many attempts to reinforce the KPI and correct the behaviour making the KPI more stringent resulted in no change or improvement. Long story short, after spending time in interviewing teams, to understand the source of that behaviour, we implemented a new KPI to drive the aspired behaviour. It required also the withdrawal of those KPIs that were driving the opposite behaviour of the one we aspired for.
That experience thought me that the challenge wasn't people not complying, but it was focus. Someone yesterday, at a group breakfast asked if we can measure purpose. We all know and have plenty of evidence to show that fuelling purpose fuels performance. A strong sense of purpose contributes to long term success. Cultures with purpose report that their employees are more likely to perform well and as a result businesses experience stronger financial performance. They also have greater customer and employee satisfaction. We do not need more arguments and rationalisations on that. So why do we struggle to find purpose in the work we do or to connect business and purpose? Is it maybe because purpose cannot be measured? I think the metric of purpose is less elusive than we think. In my view one of the reasons why we struggle with purpose and profit and how we measure purpose vs profit is that we have kept the impact of purpose isolated and separated from the financial impacts. We have kept purpose abstract and something to achieve after we have accomplished all the other goals that keep business profit running.
What if instead of relegating purpose as something aspirational and for later or for outside work we would sit down with the vision of how work would look like (remember the sketch from my previous blog?) and from that aspirational state draw back WHAT we need to do to fulfil that aspiration and HOW we want to fulfil it. What if we bring into the same equation purpose and profit as a sum rather that a subtraction? This equation will give back plenty of new metrics to measure.
For example: we keep telling people to sleep more, rest, embrace wellbeing and yet we keep measuring as main KPI how much we produce and base rewarding systems on productivity. It is obvious that what we measure gets valued! Then the challenge is not failure to attend our own wellbeing or incapacity to rest, the challenge is having in place a KPI that measures and rewords the opposite of it and defines worth and value on those terms. That KPI drives a behaviour that goes in the opposite direction of what we want to achieve or tell people to comply with.
As I always say, at ReNEW Business we are not here to give you answers but to ask you better questions so that you can create the experience you most desire for you and your business.
Here some questions you can ask to yourself and to your team:
- What behaviours do you need to cultivate to fulfil your purpose?
- Are your current KPIs focusing on supporting those behaviours?
- If not what small incremental steps can you take to change them (one at the time)?
- What KPI are you willing to give up in order to develop a new one?
- Are you rewarding the behaviours that support your purpose or the one that go in the opposite direction?
If you want to embrace and fulfil your purpose (individually and/or organisationally) you must demonstrate with your behaviours that you value it.