June 10, 2022 by Joseph Michelli

Diving Into KPIs: How To Empower Transformation and Drive More Results


Joseph Michelli

Speaker, Consultant, and New York Times Bestselling Author


Invariably, you’ve heard the phrase, “What gets measured gets done”—a statement seemingly derived from the writings of Austrian mathematician Rheticus in the 1500s. The enduring nature of the phrase speaks to an undeniable truth: Measurement is critical to business outcomes.  

However, like most clichés, the leadership wisdom of “what gets measured gets done” is a bit oversimplified. For example:

  • Measurement without follow-up action produces no outcomes. 
  • Measuring too many or the wrong things can result in distraction.
  • Getting things done depends on people feeling comfortable with the way they are being measured.

So how can you overcome the hurdles of performance measurement to achieve business success and transformation?

1. Acknowledge resistance to measurement. The fear of negative evaluation is real. Effective leaders speak openly about measurement anxiety and let team members talk about perceived risks and benefits of performance evaluation. Johnny Yokoyama, former owner of the Pike Place Fish Market and co-author of our book When Fish Fly, noted, “We had to make it safe for people to gauge their performance and understand that we will use metrics to define root causes, foster growth, and ensure the sustainability of our business. In the process, we had to help them understand that the metrics weren’t punitive.”

2. Engage team members in discussions about KPIs. In my book, Prescription for Excellence, Amir Dan Rubin, the former COO of UCLA Health System, outlined his process for involving team members in KPI discussions. “When I arrived at UCLA and began meeting new people, my first step was to ask about the quality of each person’s department or area of expertise. Most people would tell me that they were delivering excellent care, and I would then ask, how do you know? Often people had a hard time identifying metrics that they could point to that demonstrated both quality and efficiency. So, I’d say, no problem; let’s find a way to track performance.” 

3. Use accessible data to select KPIs that will drive business objectives. To effectively get things done, leaders must select a few agreed-upon measures (consisting of easily accessible data) that support their company’s essential business goals. This KPI selection process is consistent with Albert Einstein’s observation that “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” KPI selection aims to find a few metrics that critically count and can be counted.

4. Share, discuss, and analyze KPIs regularly. Harry Hynekamp, the former Director of Customer Experience at Mercedes-Benz, notes defining and acquiring data on KPIs is just the beginning of effective business growth. “At Mercedes-Benz, our goal was to maintain high visibility on a KPI like first contact resolution, so we could use the collective wisdom of our team to increase our efficiency and improve the customer experience. Consistent focus on KPIs was a game-changer, evidenced by our ability to move from 22nd to 1st on the J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Index in just a few years.”

5. Remain patient. Using KPIs for business success is a skill that requires practice. Jenna Weaver of ClearPoint Strategy puts it this way: “there’s no question that KPIs can have a positive impact on your organization, but it does take time and dedication to use them effectively…With experience and practice, you’ll start to gain better visibility into performance and more easily make the strategic decisions that will take your business in the right direction.”

The phrase “what gets measured gets done” remains true today. Especially for leaders who work through fear of measurement, engage team members in discussions of metrics, select measurable KPIs that support business objectives, and patiently leverage the information derived from measurement to improve performance and quality. 

 If you haven’t already done so, isn’t it time to dive into KPIs?

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., is a certified customer experience professional, business consultant, and author of 10 books spotlighting brands like Starbucks, Mercedes-Benz, and Zappos. You can connect with Joseph on LinkedIn.