A 'Good Enough' Measure Is a Great Place to Start

To continue the conversation from earlier in the week about strategic measures, I wanted to tell a story from another client about identifying the right measures for your strategy and how sometimes the answer is right there in front of your face, but you don’t even know it.

The team was struggling to come up with the right measures for the objective “Provide staff with the tools, information, and knowledge they need to succeed”.  In my experience, this is a common concept for an objective in the Learning & Growth Perspective of a Balanced Scorecard.  This type of objective may often require two measures – one to track each of (1) tools and (2) information and knowledge”.

Balanced Scorecard measure

The discussion was centering on measures that dealt with counting the number of communications to employees – the team agreed that this was a wholly unsatisfactory way to determine whether the organization was providing staff the right information and knowledge.

‘Our CEO Would Like This One’

We were going around in circles until someone spoke up and said, half-jokingly, “Well, if you really want to get our CEO all gung-ho about this one, we should use ‘percent of training budget expended’,” and a few people laughed.

As the outsider, I asked, “Well, is that an issue?  Do departments usually expend all their training budget? Or, never?”  The team unanimously responded that nobody ever comes close to using all of their training dollars.  My follow-up question was whether this was truly a sore spot for the CEO, to which they all, again, responded, “Yes!”

Next, one of the team members said that if we use as a BSC measure, people will start spending their training budget.  And, this was exactly the point when everyone understood the phrase: What gets measured, gets done.

It Gets to the Heart of the Issue

The point of the objective was to make sure staff were getting the right tools and training.  There was obviously an issue in the organization with ensuring people were getting the intended amount of training.  By telling everyone that one element of success for the organization would be to ensure they did the budgeted training, the message was being sent that training is important.

Of course, just spending money on training doesn’t mean you are getting the right training.  However, as a starting point, it will be a good way to ensure people are getting training.  After a year or so – whenever the numbers get up to near 100%, the organization could then try to figure out a way to track the quality of training, which is another tricky thing to measure. 

The important thing is to not get caught up in trying to find the perfect measure when there’s a good enough one out there that could prove effective.