Finding ways to measure your organisation’s performance is important. It gives you valuable information on what is happening, what is working and what is not. But measurement is only the first step. It is what you do with the information that can make all the difference.
The way in which an organisation measures its performance – indeed, whether it even measures performance at all – says a lot about that organisation. It tells us what that organisation thinks is important. Does it focus, for example, on sales figures, customer satisfaction or staff retention? Does it measure performance in the short, medium or long term?
Measuring performance also helps us to understand how an organisation works. We can see the resources that it uses, the work that it does and the outcomes that it achieves. We can monitor an organisation’s performance over time or compare its performance with that of its peers. We can even see where it needs to improve.
But performance measurement is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a means to an end. So before we start measuring our organisation’s performance, we need to understand why we are measuring it. Is it so we can understand the resources we have used? Is it so that we can show what we have achieved? Is it so that we can improve over time? Only if you know why you want to measure performance can then decide how.
Knowing why we are measuring performance is also critical to getting the most out of it. Once we have gathered performance information, we need to do something with it. Just collecting lots of information is unlikely to actually help is to achieve our goals. We need to use that information to improve what we do and how we do it. And that’s the real challenge.
It can take time, effort and a lot of courage, but using performance information to drive improvement can make a real and significant difference to the organisation. Measurement is good, but measurement plus action is better.