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How Executive Teams Can Measure Success Like The Best

Measure like a pro

Management consultant Peter Drucker said, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.”

Tracking performance sheds light on our businesses and provides direction for making effective decisions. Common assessment factors include leading indicators for success, key performance indicators and anything required by regulatory and licensing bodies. However, not knowing how to read those measurements and analyze them effectively leaves executive teams making the same mistakes over and over again.

The Amateur’s Approach To Measurement And Metrics

Knowing how to use measurement and metrics properly can be challenging. But using them ineffectively can cause ongoing problems for your business.

Too Many Measurements Or Metrics

The more metrics you’re watching, the more likely you’ll become confused by all the data. It becomes difficult to sort the important measurements from the noise. Today, technology makes it fast and easy to gather data, but unless you know how to analyze it effectively, this can simply waste time, delay important decisions and lead to rushed execution and ultimate failure.

For instance, one of my client’s executive teams spent two months reviewing data. They took so long to make their decision that they had only one week to implement it. Unsurprisingly, it was impossible to do this effectively, and it led to breakdowns and low regard for leadership.

Isolated Focus

Focusing on a single metric at the expense of others can also cause unnecessary problems. For example, an executive team was reviewing the monthly performance of its marketing team, which had shown amazing success. Revenue improved, profit increased and the amount of product purchased by each customer increased significantly, which was the purpose of that marketing strategy. However, the number of new users went down that month. While the executives acknowledged the success, the focus of the meeting became trying to solve the problem of fewer new customers rather than looking at the big picture.

Distracted By Popular Metrics

Popular metrics are often the ones that are easiest to measure, such as profitability, quality, safety and revenue generated. These are all important, but they never lead you to understand fully what needs to be improved. Ultimately, the purpose of measurement is to tell a story that gives insight into the areas of the business you need to improve on, such as execution, performance and business results.

For example, people watching baseball will track player stats like batting average or earned run average. While those are often talked about and reported on, a more important metric is the number of pitches thrown during the game. It’s not a glamorous measurement, but it’s a strong indicator for knowing when to replace a pitcher.

If the metrics you’re tracking don’t lead to a better understanding of how to problem-solve or quickly make an effective decision, they’re likely not worth emphasizing on a routine basis.

Measuring Like The Pros

Just like everything else in business, success is measured by how well you use your resources, time and energy to operate your business. Measurement must be leveraged, or it can cost you your business.

Focus On The Specific Measurements You Need To Operate Your Business

Every team across your business needs different data to make their best decisions. While it’s okay to review those measurements to assess your business and leadership, they aren’t built to inform on the business as a whole. Instead, identify the measurements that will give you the best collective indicators for solving problems or making decisions that help improve business results.

Prioritize The Fewest Number Of Metrics That Yield The Most Accuracy

Remember, too much data leads to overload. Try to identify three to eight metrics that, when combined, tell the most about the effectiveness of your business. This will allow you to speed up decision-making, problem-solving and pivoting for effective change management.

Never Isolate A Metric From The Whole Story

Avoid prioritizing a metric that is nonessential, invokes unnecessary fear or concern or takes you off purpose from your strategy. This wastes time and tends to validate the egos in the room or the alarmists. Instead, stick to the measurements you determined provide the best picture of your business.

However, if a metric you don’t regularly track becomes an indicator of a larger problem—like one that involves safety, quality or market changes—take the time to investigate it thoroughly. That will support important decisions around pivoting.

Invest More Time On Metrics That Track Execution

There’s a common misunderstanding in the business world that leading indicators for success are the most important thing to track because they allow businesses to be more proactive. But as a whole, leading indicators are collected too late to make real, effective change in a timely manner.

Professional sports teams focus more on metrics of effective execution. Why? Because leading indicators are always preceded by execution. So if we can identify a breakdown in execution, we can proactively avoid a lot of breakdowns in performance.

Here are a few examples of execution metrics that most companies fail to track and leverage:

• Number of times a breakdown occurs from miscoordination between two departments

• Length of time leadership takes to decide versus the time leadership expects that decision to be implemented effectively

• Number of times a low performer causes more work for teammates

The specific questions will be different for each organization, but getting to the root causes of breakdowns rather than symptoms is key for what you measure. Those measurements will always be determined by execution, not the results of execution. This is how the pros manage their career and business!

To measure like a pro, it’s important to understand the key metrics that tell you the most about your business’s health. This means you must prioritize improving business results rather than treating every metric equally. It’s critical for businesses to get better at identifying measurements for execution if they truly want to apply the most proactive leading indicators for success.

Do you need help identifying and tracking metrics for maximum success?

Don’t hesitate to contact us today or

For more on metrics and other keys to successful team building, check out Mark’s newest book, Reimagine Teams: The Missing Piece in Team Building to Achieve Breakthrough Results

Article first published as a Forbes Coaches Council Post.

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