Linking Results To Key Performance Indicators Is Like Hooking Up A Big TV | Beth’s Blog

Linking Results To Key Performance Indicators Is Like Hooking Up A Big TV

Measurement

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The process of linking results to key performance indicators and associated metrics it is like hooking up a big TV.  You have to do it one component at a time .    The first and most important component is identifying success or the most important result and linking the right “Key Performance Indicator” or data point that you will collect along the way to understand if you are making progress toward your goal.    Then comes the difficult part – identifying what “associated” metrics from social, email, and your web site that you need to collect.       What follows is a reflection from several workshops for nonprofits on how to do this.

Last week, I had the pleasure of doing a measurement mini-workshop for nonprofits based on my work at Packard Foundation and the ideas in my book, “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit,” at Compasspoint‘s new offices in Oakland for a room full of nonprofits.    I introduced several methods for using measurement for transformative results, including the Maturity of Practice Model (CWRF) and how to use it as an assessment tool,  principles of being data-informed, and how to apply KD Paine’s 7 Simple Steps of Measurement.

I really like the  7 steps of measurement for their simple elegance and how they can be used to measure social media or anything for that matter. I’ve even used the framework to measure trainings I have delivered!

  • Step 1: Define your goal(s). What outcomes is this strategy or tactic going to achieve? What are your measurable objectives?
  • Step 2: Define your audiences. Who are you are trying to reach? How do your efforts connect with those audiences to achieve the goal.
  • Step 3: Define your investments. What is it really costing you to achieve this outcome?
  • Step 4: Define your benchmarks. Who or what are you going to compare your results to?
  • Step 5: Define your metrics. What are the Indicators by which you will judge your progress?
  • Step 6: Select your data collection tool(s).
  • Step 7: Analyze your data, turn it into action,  measure again.

As part of my work at the Packard Foundation this year, I’m facilitating a peer learning group where grantees are designing and implementing measurement action learning projects based on the 7 steps of measurement framework over six month period.   We are talking this slow so participants can be thoughtful and learn from each step and also design and execute a pilot that is focused, produces useful data, and in the end helps them improve their practices.    The goal is to for participants to incorporate measurement discipline into their way of working – and that requires incremental steps over longer time period than a one-time mini-workshop.

The process of linking results to key performance indicators and associated metrics it is like hooking up a big TV.  You have to do it one component at a time .    The first and most important component is identifying success or the most important result and linking the right “Key Performance Indicator” or data point that you will collect along the way to understand if you are making progress toward your goal.   Whenever I use the language, “Key Performance Indicator” or “KPI,”  a hand or two goes up and asks,”What’s that?”

KPIs are simply data points for charting progress towards results.   It is important to define and get broad agreement on what handful of data points will be most informative.  I use the chart below, which comes from Chapter 5 of our book.   It is a generic list of results and examples of Key Performance Indicators.   This is a new way of thinking for a lot of nonprofits (not all),  so the checklist is a useful way to bring the concept to life.

When I use this a teaching tool for peer learning projects, participants select one result area to base  a small project that they will measure.   Some will use the checklist to design a brainstorming session with their team to identify and hone in on what’s most important.    The list above is generic, so it helpful to have a mini-case study from a  nonprofit, especially the process of linking results to KPI to associated metrics.

The example  above comes from Momsrising, a “flyer” when it comes to measurement practice.   The example highlights how they link their key result area to a KPI to associated metrics.   This result area is to grow the membership, they ask what do they need to know to determine how much the membership growing ?     They track the conversion rate of new member sign ups and renewals online.  They also know that in order a growth rate in members, it takes reach and engagement through social channels so they also track referral traffic and engagement metrics.  They also look at qualitative data, including doing a content analysis of their member feedback.

I was curious about how hard or easy this step was for participants in the peer learning group at Packard and polled them.   Those participants who found linking key results to KPI easy was because their strategic plan identifies “key result areas” and are already using Key Performance Indicators. For others, this is a new way of thinking about a communications strategy which is why it took some work.   Most, however, found that the most difficult part of was identifying what social media metrics to track that link to the result areas.

Here’s why:

  • Every metric from every source (web site, email, or social media)  is great but what do you do with that much data? The difficulty is figuring out how to organize it and use it for decision-making.
  • The work was winnowing everything down & finding strategic ‘narrative’ that links what data to collect against our results
  • It required getting to specifics and focusing what we want to accomplish and what strategy is needed. That’s been a challenge.
  • It was challenging to select associated metrics — always asking if these are the  best metrics to use to meet my goals.
  • Getting everyone on the same page on the KPI, plus translating it into associated metrics to a specific campaign, program, or department.

This is where it a good idea once you have come up with a list of  ”associated metrics” that are logically linked to your KPI and Results or Goals, to ask a few questions.   How useful are these metrics to making decisions?  Will anyone else in the organization care?   How easy or difficult is it to collect and analyze the data?    The last question is important because if a particular set of metrics requires hours and hours of collection work, it may not be worth it.  On the other hand, if you have a system and are already collecting a data point, than it is easy.

Once all the components are hooked up, it is also important to be able to extract the data easily and put into a spreadsheet or dashboard for the sense-making process     One big challenge is that the associated metrics are coming from different sources and pulling it together in one dashboard can be a chore for some organizations.   There are tools like Hubspot that allow you pull in data from different sources.

What is your organization’s key result areas?  What are your KPIs?  What social media metrics and other associated metrics do you collect to help you make better decisions?  What tools are you using?

 

8 Responses

  1. I do quite a bit of advocacy evaluation with organizations, but I really like this insight of the added step of explicitly processing the degree to which it was (or was not) difficult to identify the key indicators that would lead to progress towards a given goal. In addition to gauging the extent to which that is new thinking for an organization, it could also prompt a conversation about how appropriate/measurable/actionable a given goal is, and what might make that goal connect more clearly to metrics. Thanks for prodding my thinking about how to process and reflect in the course of evaluation.

  2. [...] This post outlines KD Paine’s 7 Simple Steps of Measurement with information that can help any nonprofit get started down the measurement path. [...]

  3. [...] This post outlines KD Paine’s 7 Simple Steps of Measurement with information that can help any nonprofit get started down the measurement path. [...]

  4. reysun says:

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  5. [...] Source: Linking Results To Key Performance Indicators Is Like Hooking Up A Big TV Did you like this? Share it:Tweet [...]

  6. [...] gauge the extent to which they’re achieving that ideal, when I read Beth Kanter’s post about key performance indicators. She makes the analogy that measurement is like hooking up a big TV–you have to be able to [...]

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  8. Beth, thank you for such insightful post. I’m expert in Balanced Scorecard, which supposed to be well-known concept (according to various statistics), but I do face the same problem as you described. Sometimes people don’t know basics, and we need to move slowly.

    I like your approach moving from strategic goal to specific KPI. I often see that people tend to do the opposite thing: instead of thinking about their goals, they start with KPIs and fail.

    Hope to see more engaging posts in your blog!