Measures that Lead

17 Dec

James Slavet’s recent post Five New Management Metrics You Need To Know at Forbes is excellent. It presents five examples of lead measures (he calles them inputs) that organizations are using to drive performance. I call them lead measures because I first learned the concept of how important it is to have both lead and lag measures identified was in a presentation DDI President Bob Rogers delivered after the release of his excellent book, Realizing the Promise of Performance Management. His presentation was simple and impacting – effective strategists and leaders are looking forward, planning and developing capabilities that will cause the outcomes sought. In contrast, many more often see the situation where the person in charge reminds us of the budget targets that were given, where we are for the past month, YTD and YOY…followed by praise, reward, threats and consequences; quite Pavlovian. Imagine watching a baseball or football game where the commentary and coach interviews revolve only around the number of runs / points each team had scored…no on-base percentage, yards-per-carry, time of possession, defense formations, etc. It would be moronic. There are important outcomes and status towards those outcomes that are important to measure and review, but the real work is done when performers are aligned with actions that will cause success and measures of these drivers are identified, implemented and tracked to create change.

This Post provides a couple of nice examples. My favorite analogy is likening lead measures to the arrows on a bowling lane (and this video cracks me up).

Lead measures focus talent on behaviors that will cause success. So why aren’t they more effectively used? I believe it’s fundamentally cultural. It’s difficult to choose and use the right lead measures if you’re not in the business. As a leader, with all the related demands, you’re not spending time at the process level where value is created unless you make it a priority because you see it as your role to serve the processes and those that execute them. The best I’ve witnessed are from leaders that practice and value gemba walks. With a balanced set of lead and lag measures not only will outcomes improve, but you’ll know why. You will likely even be able to foresee opportunities and threats much earlier while there’s time to mitigate, reduce losses and capitalize on opportunities.

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