What Does 'Good' Look Like? Using KPIs to Define and Measure Success

Posted by Lauren on July 26, 2021


Think back to your last project or initiative? How did it go? Did you respond well? How do you know it was a success? Perhaps you’ve heard rumors that everyone is using the system and that one manager that was vocal seems quiet now and, dare you say, happy. Or, perhaps your training surveys showed that everyone felt confident to use the information they learned on their jobs. However, none of these are concrete indicators of ‘good’ – they are only subjective or observable items that may not tell the whole story.

So, what does ‘good’ look like? Are you someone in your organization that ponders whether the efforts you and others are undertaking will have a positive impact? Remember the last discussion you had with various colleagues at a project or status meeting where people questioned whether a task or directive would help vs setback the organization? Or do you know that something recently was undervalued but had a profound impact, and it is something that should be expanded or repeated? Regardless of whether you are trying to prove value or uncover what is not helping, defining what success or what ‘good’ looks like is critical to you, your colleagues, and especially your organization.

At your organization, it is important to rely on more than the word of your employees when measuring success. Not knowing what 'good' looks like could mean millions of dollars of lost revenue or poor customer satisfaction. So, the question is, how do you know what ‘good’ looks like for your organization – especially if you can’t simply rely on ‘word-of-mouth’?

Go ahead, the next time you are on a Zoom call or virtual meeting with a group, stop and ask everyone how they define success for the item(s) you are currently discussing. If you are in the office, stop in the break room or take a moment in the conference room during an all-hands and ask the group how the process you use to get your work done is measured. Does anyone know? Are there many different perspectives? If you all had separate destinations in mind for vacation but the goal was to spend time together, do you think the goal could be reached if you never came to a consensus on the destination? We must not only define common goals, but we must also define the process; how we measure its success must all be aligned in order to get to the goals and to do so efficiently.

All projects should be run with the end in mind. Keep in mind, success will look different for different companies, industries, and projects. Your company’s idea of ‘good’ will also constantly evolve. At a minimum, though, once the project or organization’s goals are established, success depends on small individual and group behaviors. These behaviors are measured and monitored using key performance indicators (KPIs).

Success is defined and measured differently by each organization, alternatively how the people working for that organization view that definition and its measurement is something that should have a singular and well understood meaning. 

Benchmark against who?

Has anyone ever said, “Let’s just see what the competition is doing?” or “What is the standard in our industry?”, these are common threads. Benchmarking is definitely an important tool, and one that should be used effectively, but it is not the primary driver for you or your organization's success. Your stakeholders, customers, those affected by your business are the ones who not only need but define your objectives. After all there is a mission or primary aim for why your organization exists, right?

Your KPIs should not come from the latest benchmarking survey or be based on what the latest “best-in-class” company uses. Instead, replace vague definitions with measurable and more specific ones (i.e. 95% PM compliance rate). Also, be sure that the KPIs fit within the global expectations of the organization. It makes no sense to measure and monitor a KPI that is not useful in achieving your ultimate company goals.

Following these guidelines will ensure that success is measured against raw data, and not against personal, subjective opinions about the project.

For projects, don’t forget to establish the vision before you start the hard work. That way, you can establish a quantitative baseline and show how your project moves the organization closer to its long-term goals.

When thinking of KPIs, think about what is important to your company and your industry? Is work order completion impacting your bottom-line? Are you heavily-regulated, so need to measure your regulatory compliance? If downtime leads to lost revenue, perhaps track the downtime of critical assets as an indicator of a strong maintenance strategy. Again, all these examples are concrete, measurable, and in line with the company goals.

Defining your success with KPIs helps you see where you started, where you are, and where you are going. Performance management helps your organization enter a state of continuous improvement. Want to know more about why you should be using KPIs to define the success of your Maximo implementation or upgrade? Download our infographic here.

Join the conversation around using KPIs for defining and measuring success on LinkedIn.

Download the Infographic: 5 Ways KPIs help you Achieve Operational Excellence and Balance Performance Management

Topics: Performance Management, KPI, KPIs, IBM Maximo

Written by Lauren

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