By Donna Hover, Chapter Chair, SCORE of Southeast Michigan

Over the years I have never been much of a "metrics person." Increasing market share was the main goal, through focusing on customer and product mix. I have been working in strategic planning for 30 years, and metrics were never much used in strategic planning. In the past few years, I have changed and have seen changes in my clients. We started pulling metrics into the strategic planning process (basic number, smart numbers, and critical numbers) to give us a mark in the sand in order to measure if the strategic plan is taking us in the right direction.

Here are more than 200 metrics we typically use in companies. Metrics are used to change focus, to sharpen the game, to reward a team, to compare teams, to fine tune a process, to create a process, to identify a problem, to identify what's working or not working, to identify whether to turn left or right. We use them for performance reviews, to communicate success, develop training needs, and to allocate more or fewer resources toward a given initiative. We can determine velocity, energy and intensity to change results. People need to see if their actions are making a difference weekly, monthly and quarterly.

Metrics are not just used for accountability; they are also used to show where we need to adjust the plan. People (knowledge and skills) play more of a role than ever before in developing and executing a strategy...which makes metrics more important than ever. We are able to collect data faster than ever before, and we can identify leading indicators that tell us if our behavior or our doingness is going to give us the results we expect.

We have a more educated workforce than ever before. They are technology-savy, data-savy; and if the numbers aren't coming in immediately the way they are expected, the younger generation is quick to make adjustments. The older generation can't hold them back, waiting for the numbers to change or get better, or be different. The younger generation will disengage because they know how to drive change in the numbers if we tell them what results we are trying to get.

On the other hand, I have some companies that are still unsure of what data runs their companies. Therefore they don't have clarity on what needs to change to get the desired results.  Many times I hear them say, "We just need to work harder and smarter."  Which I follow with, "Work smarter at what, and how much harder do we need to push?"

Without metrics, your strategic plan is a waste of time. Click here, and select five new metrics for your company. Be sure to select metrics that can only be attained when people work together to make the results happen. Make a contest with metrics, followed by a celebration, then change the metrics for the next quarter!  Make metrics fun. Let the teams create their own metrics to drive growth for the company.

What metrics do you have that measure innovation? Is it one metric or a combination of metrics to make innovation happen?

About the Author

Donna Hover serves as Chapter Chair for SCORE of Southeast Michigan. Donna started her own management consulting firm in 1987, servicing automotive suppliers with revenue between $125 and $800 million. She ultimately grew the firm to 17 employees over 10 years. She would go on to organize the first CEO roundtable for automotive suppliers in 1987 and later started a nonprofit inside her own company, transitionining it to a formal nonprofit years later. Donna sold her company in 2001, accumulating 30 years experience teaching/advising CEOs of mature second- and third-generation companies—CEOs with eight years or more experience—how to grow a mature company by adding new innovation, products and technology.

Metrics Matter