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Metric Failures


When I started out in business, the term KPI, key performance indicators was revolutionary for me. As a newly minted CPA/Harvard MBA I entered a business world when computers the size of restaurant walk-ins were a status symbol. PC’s were still a thought and when you asked for data you got sheets of green and white rowed paper filled with numbers. When in doubt as to their meaning, you asked for more.

KPI taught me a lesson I still apply today. The less you understand about a problem the more information you request. The more you know about your problem, the more you focus on a few key items. KPI’s.

At Victoria Station restaurant headquarters, reams of prints outs became meals per labor hour and yields on prime ribs for example. We had others but it definitely gave us a pulse to manage our 30% growth rate.

Today KPI’s are referred to as metrics. Every plan is now filled with them and most managers speak in “metric-ese.” Most metrics are built on the past, or built-in comparison to one’s larger competition. Sales per employee is a new metric for example.

In today’s ever-changing and flatter competitive landscape, are traditional metrics the way to go? I wonder. How do metrics fit with todays term like re-invention, purple cow, niche markets, and remarkable marketing?

Every leadership, thought leader, self-help, and productivity authority I read suggest success is the refusal to quit failing on your plan.  They all cite Thomas Edison’s filament experiments as their example. Yet who has a metric for this approach to success?

I am going to add the Edison metric to my practice. The metric will measure the number and rate of my own and my client’s failures. The more the better. And yes, lessons learned will be addressed as well.

Imagine your next quarterly off-site review or your monthly plan review. The first metric discussed is your failure rate. Your rate is too low and that’s a cause for concern. Hard to picture I suspect. Even harder would be the cheers for your marketing department for announcing they exceeded their failure metric in both number and rate.

When I was young, I thought getting the right answer on the test was success. My narrow focus had me missing out on some interesting things going on around me. Now that I am older, I find most of my success came after I failed at something and refused to quit on my original goal. And I am more engaged in the ever-changing market around me.

So here’s to the joy and success that always follow metric failures!

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