The Pros and Cons of Survey-Based Strategic Measures

In working with a client recently to help identify the measures they will use to track their progress in implementing their strategy, the project manager—the VP for strategy—came to me with a concern about the potential measures that had been identified by the team to date.  She was worried that there were too many survey-based measures.

About half of the measures identified were survey based and she was right to be concerned about it.  While obtaining measure data via surveys is a great way to learn about customer/client-focused outcomes because you are actually asking your customer/client whether you achieved the desired outcome, they may not work so well for the other perspectives of your Balanced Scorecard.

Survey Participants May Be Wrong

For example, look at the Internal Processes perspective of the BSC where we might have a strategic objective along the lines of: “Enhance and leverage our organization’s analytics capability.”  You may think employee satisfaction with analytics capability, or asking your employees if they think your analytics capability is really good, would be a good measure. 

However, there’s a good chance that if your analytics capability was lousy and it has improved somewhat, that your employees may now think it is great and there’s no more need for improvement.  Or, your employees may think it is great, when in fact it isn’t.  A more objective, outcome based measure will be necessary.  Can you measure the number of new products or services successfully launched where the need was identified by your new analytics capability?  It may be tough, but it could be better measure.

Survey Frequency Can Be Challenging

Also, one problem with surveys is that employees and staff can sometimes get survey fatigue.  It is hard to do them once per year without seeing responses decline.  So, you need to identify measures that you can gather the data for on a more frequent basis—such as monthly or quarterly—if you want to be able to act quickly on the data.

All this being said, survey-based measures can be very useful.  Organizations just need to be careful to counter balance them with more objective, data-based measures.