You hear it a lot, don’t you? That you should only measure what you can control. Hogwash! The most powerful KPIs are those that track what you can only influence.
Let’s take a closer look at how to measure to expand your influence – and get much more meaningful results.
Stephen Covey Started It…
In his landmark book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about our circle of concern and circle of influence. The idea is that we shouldn’t spend our time and energy worrying about things in our circle of concern. We’ve can’t do anything about results we might want that are out there in our circle of concern.
But by the same token, we don’t have to spend all our time focusing just on the results within our circle of control. If we do that, we measure trivial things only, like how much work we’re doing.
The real power comes from what we do about the results we want in our circle of influence.
Focus On And Measure The Results In Your Circle of Influence
The kinds of results in our circle of influence include the impacts that our work has on our customers, colleagues, managers and suppliers. These results are the true purpose for turning up at work. Working hard and doing our tasks is not the purpose for turning up at work.
Measuring results in your circle of influence starts with examining the interface between your work and your customers and other stakeholders. And to understand what these results truly are, you’re going to have to ask those customers and stakeholders. In their answers are the clues about what difference you can be making for them, and therefore what KPI you should be measuring.
It can also help to flowchart your work processes too, to make it more visible what exact outputs you provide to your customers and stakeholders, as a trigger to talk with them about the outcomes they experience. (‘Outcomes’ is just another word that means impacts or results.)
Exercise Your Influence To Improve Performance
When the performance ratios of the results in your circle of influence show you where things are really at, you can focus more easily on what you can improve.
Remember that in your circle of influence, you’re never aiming for 100% perfection. You’re just aiming to move the results closer to where you (and your customers and stakeholders) want them to be. And you’ll get better and better at this, but only if you keep at it over time.
Strategies to exercise your influence, to improve your performance results, include:
1. analysing your work processes, to find ways you can redesign or streamline how you produce those outputs for your customers and stakeholders
2. collaborating with others you work with, such as your colleagues or suppliers, to find ideas that might improve your performance results
3. raising awareness or knowledge of the desired results among others who have more influence than you do, and inviting their help
The idea is to not give up on measuring the results that matter, just because you’re not sure you have enough control over the results that matter.
Is there an important result that you’re not measuring because it’s outside your circle of control? Take another look at that result, and if it’s in your circle of influence, start measuring it and exploring how you can expand and exercise your influence in moving it closer to where you want it to be.
About the Author:
Stacey Barr is a specialist in organisational performance measurement, helping corporate planners, business analysts and performance measurement officers confidently facilitate their organisation to create and use meaningful performance measures with lots of buy-in. Sign up for Stacey’s free email tips at www.staceybarr.com/202tipsKPI.html and receive a complimentary copy of her renowned e-book “202 Tips for Performance Measurement”.
I think your tips are great! Thank you!
But when we talk about govenment outcomes the probability of being in the circle of influence is much smaller, because we are talking about social and economic problems that governments want to solve. Do you agree?
Most of my consulting clients are government Ana, so yes I agree that they struggle a great deal with defining their circle of influence. They tend to err on the side of measuring only what they can control, and this is a mistake. Our circle of influence is larger than we think it is, even in government. It’s important to set very clear long term outcomes to aim for – like social change issues such as ending homelessness or reducing road fatalities – but our strategies in government can and should be much more specific and testable so we can learn what impacts our outcomes and what doesn’t. I’m reading David Apgar’s “Relevance” at the moment and it’s a refreshing view about testable strategies. I’ll be interviewing David in August 2009, so if you want to hear more on this topic, you can sign up for my free Silver Measures & More program and get the details for this interview at http://www.measuresandmore.com