Zombies and KPI’s

I subscribe to quite a few performance measurement emails, web sites and blogs.  I’ve noticed a worrying trend of sites offering “off the shelf” KPIs.  In fact you can now buy books packed with “ideal” KPIs for all sorts of businesses (oh, how the long winter nights must fly by).

Are the measures in these books flawed?  Probably not.  So what’s my issue with them?

Imagine going into a DIY shop and asking for an “excellent tool”.  The first question you would be asked is “What is it you need to do?”  The off-the-shelf approach to KPIs assumes that your goal is defined by your industry sector, not the ambitions or strategy of your organisation.

Now it may be that if you bought a “home toolkit” you will get lucky and happen to have all the tools for your as-yet-undefined task.  If you’ve done any amount of DIY you’ll have found that you invariably don’t have everything you need at home.  The best approach is to have a clearly defined task, check what tools you already have and go to the DIY shop to buy the rest.  The more clearly defined your task is the better chance you have of getting everything you need in one visit.

Measures and KPIs are just the same.  If you work backwards from your strategy two things will happen:

  • You will end up with “the right tools for the job”, confident that they will deliver the end result that you are looking for.
  • You will minimise the number of unused measures that just suck up resource, cloud the picture and don’t help you deliver your strategic objectives.

So don’t be a zombie, following the “industry best practice” (or as I prefer to call it – copying someone else’s homework).  Instead, work backwards from your strategy to decide which measures will deliver the results you need.


Image by geishaboy500

This is a guest post by Bernie Smith. If you would like to learn more, Bernie’s web site has a free KPI report. If you would like to guest post on this site, read the guidelines here.


  1. Nice post Bernie, the metrics need to be taken in context. That is the problem with benchmarking, you can’t compare like with like.

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