The six C's of effective metrics

Useful business metrics follow the six-C formula, beginning with connection and ending with communication

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Step 6: Fine-tune each metric

Go back to the help desk described a couple of weeks ago. While the incident close rate by itself isn't complete, you might decide it's useful when combined with other metrics. If so, look at how it could encourage undesirable decisions, and make adjustments to correct the problem. Examples:

  • Treating all incidents as being equal when some are much more difficult to resolve than others. Solution: Weight each incident according to level of difficulty.
  • Dealing with contacts rather than cases. Don't mistake completing a call with fixing a problem. And don't give credit for fixing lots of problems because lots of people called about a single problem. Solution: Organize incidents into cases, and only close cases, not calls.
  • Encouraging undesirable escalation, which will happen if you factor in time-to-resolution without great care. That's because every time a help desk analyst escalates a problem, it pulls someone away from whatever other high-value activity they were engaged in. Solution: Left as an exercise for the reader.

If you want to do the best job of fine-tuning your metrics, review the results with the teams responsible for them often, and ask how accurately they think the results describe reality as they experience it. When a measure distorts the real situation as team members understand it, listen to them and fix the problem.

Step 7: Communicate the results

That is, after all, the whole point: to let everyone know how you're doing.

How? If you've ever worked in a company that's run a United Way campaign you already know a big part of the answer: graphically and prominently. Remember the United Way thermometer? It shows the target and how close the company is to reaching it. Everyone knows. If the campaign leaders have done their job, employees want the company to reach the target. It drives behavior.

Remind employees, over and over:

  • What the goals are.
  • How achieving them will make the organization more successful.
  • How your measures connect.
  • The current results and whether they're good.
  • The plan for further improvement.

Bottom line

Designing an effective system of organizational metrics is far, far more difficult than most who recommend the practice acknowledge. It's akin to designing a cockpit that allows a pilot to fly on instruments. It can be -- and has been-- done, and the bigger and more complex the aircraft, the more important it is to be able to fly this way.

But compare it to a typical car driver, who relies mostly on the view through the windshield, supplemented by three mirrors and four instruments.

The parallels are, I trust, clear.

This story, "The six C's of effective metrics," was originally published at Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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