Occasionally, I encounter organizations that are really excited about the great new strategy they have developed and are about to execute. They did all of the analysis and had all of the right people in the room when strategic decisions were being made and they are confident that executing their new strategy is really going to make a difference.
And occasionally, I burst their bubble when I ask: How will you know your strategy is successful?
Sometimes, the response is something like, “Well, we will know when we are the industry leader in five years.”
Other times, I get the embarrassed answer, “Umm … good question. I’m not sure.”
Five Years Is Too Long to Wait to Know If You Are Succeeding
To me, those two answers are not much different because not knowing if you are executing your strategy successfully and knowing in five years is pretty much the same thing. I guess if you are successful and your organization is the industry leader in five years, then I’m wrong. However, if you aren’t the industry leader in five years, you have spent five years’ worth of time and money and failed.
On the other hand, if you had identified the measures you wanted to use to track your strategic progress and reviewed them on a quarterly basis, you would have known a lot sooner than five years down the road that things were not going so well and you would have had the opportunity to adapt your strategy so you would have a better chance of succeeding.
So, even if you have a strategy, but don’t yet have strategic measures, you should invest in developing them now because it is never too late to find out how you are doing on executing your strategy – unless it is already five years down the road.
Four Reasons Measures Can Help
Identifying and developing your strategic measures can have several benefits.
- As everyone knows: What gets measured, gets done. Having measures and tracking them sends a message to everyone in the organization about what’s important.
- Measures provide clarity. In large organizations strategic priorities or strategic goals can be vague—sometimes deliberately to try ensure everyone fits in. However, the flip side to that is that either no one understands what the goals or priorities mean and, therefore, can’t figure out what they should be doing to advance the strategy. Measures say, “We are going to measure X” so either do X or do something that will help us achieve X.
- Measures enable good decision making. Without a regular stream of data about your strategy, how can you possibly make good decisions? Without data your decisions are just hunches and guesswork. Measure data gives you a solid footing on which to base your strategic decisions.
- Regularly collecting and reviewing measure data enables organizational strategic learning. The best thing about failing is learning from our mistakes. However, if we don’t have measure data to review and discuss, it becomes a lot harder to figure out why we failed and to avoid the mistakes of the past.
So, even if you organization has developed a great strategy, has started executing your key initiatives, but forgot to identify the key measures of success, it’s not too late. Identify those measures and start tracking them now. It will help clarify the strategy and keep you on track.