Real Accountability Requires Better Metrics

October 28, 2022 Jamie Notter

We’re all adjusting to the realities of the hybrid workplace, but one area organizations continue to struggle with is metrics and accountability. The pandemic completely busted the management myth of “if I can’t see you, you’re not working,” but at the same time, a lot of leaders still struggle with the fact that they don’t have good visibility into the progress their employees make on a regular basis (whether they are in the office or not).

The main reason for this is, frankly, that we’re generally very bad at metrics. We all have basic organizational numbers we track (revenue, membership, attendance at events, etc.), and that’s fine, but those are all lagging indicators (by the time we report them, it’s too late to do anything about them). They don’t drive conversations that result in adjustments that improve results, which is what we need.

One big culture change I frequently help organizations make is to roll out a more thorough and strategic set of metrics for the entire organization. This is culture change, because your process for tracking metrics and progress directly impacts people’s behavior (and how successful they are). We usually start with whatever’s in the strategic plan, but the rubber really meets the road when we clarify annual and quarterly priorities and critical numbers.

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Priorities are the specific things that need to be on everyone’s radar (and they themselves should be measurable), and the critical numbers should include some of those things you already track, but should also include the most important leading indicators.

For the leading indicators, you need to build a model that predicts some of your critical outcomes. There are probably some key behaviors among your membership that tend to happen before people join, renew, or attend the annual meeting, etc. Those are your leading indicators. It could be downloads of a resource, visits to a specific page on your website, or completion of a particular program. Once you start tracking those, individual employees can start building models around hitting those targets (like marketing activities related to that key program people complete). This gets everyone focused on the activities that drive results, and it’s much easier to make it all visible.

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It’s not always easy to build these models, but you have to try. Each time you build one and test it, it will get better. And when all your staff start tracking the right metrics (every three months), you’ll start to see real-time adjustments to how people are doing the work in ways that generate improved results.

If you want help with this, sign up for our culture change coaching program, and we can start building new models with you right away.

Jamie Notter

Jamie is a co-founder and culture strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders create amazing workplace cultures that drive greater performance and impact. He brings thirty years of experience to his work designing and managing culture, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is the co-author of four popular business books, including the award-winning Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement, and his fall 2023 release, Culture Change Made Easy. He holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.