KPI’s and Goals – Let’s Open the Discussion

?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1Industry regardless, business leaders start looking for the silver bullet and changing matrixes for measuring performance every year.  Except, too often, the goals are not SMART, and the KPI’s are disconnected from the goals, making the goals nothing more than good suggestions.  Worse, too many business leaders forget to make goals SMART, and the goals fail faster than New Year’s Resolutions.  It cannot be understated; KPI’s need to be made SMART and go hand-in-hand with SMART goals to build performers.

KPI’s

Key performance indicators (KPI’s) are actions that build behaviors and are reflected in data collected.  SMART KPI’s are specific, measurable, applicable, relevant, and task-oriented.  For call centers, a SMART KPI is designed with a specific and singular action that can be reliably measured, appropriately articulated as achievable, is relevant to the agent and relevant to the call centers strategic goals, and is based upon a task.

A typical KPI in call centers is After-Call Handling (ACH); this is time measured between hanging up with one customer and beginning a new call.  The tasks completed might include leaving call notes, faxing/emailing documents, completing paperwork for the customer, etc.  How do we create ACH as a SMART KPI; we follow the pattern below:

      • Specific – ACH ranges between 0 and 120 seconds.
      • Measurable – ACH can be anywhere in the 0-120 second range, faster being better.
      • Achievable – Do your processes for servicing customer requests support front-line agents quickly completing tasks?
      • Relevant – Does measuring ACH make sense as an integral part of the call center’s operations?
      • Task-Oriented – Do agents know how to manage their after-call handling to meet the maximum ACH?

What do I see too often in call centers where KPIs are concerned; dumb KPIs masquerading as SMART KPIs and leaving destruction and chaos as a consequence.  Why?  Because the KPI might be based upon a task, but it has not been reviewed as achievable, actionable, and relevant to the organization in more than a decade.  In discussing KPIs with a call center leadership team, a leader stated, quite proudly, “Our KPIs don’t need to be revised; they have served us well since 2000 when the company launched.”  For the record, if any process, procedure, or business action is not written down, with a single person responsible and revised at a maximum of every 18-months, your processes and procedures ARE THE PROBLEMS in your business!What Are SMART Goals and Why Are They Important? - Business 2 Community

After evaluating processes at a local hospital recently, some of their processes, standard work that protects patients from getting sick while in hospital, weren’t written down, and those written down were drafted in the 1980s!  Nurses running around claiming they were doing their job according to hospital policy could not find written standards for work; genetic knowledge was passed along and changed by the current leader in charge.  When asked why the processes were not written down, lawyers and the risk of litigation were the excuses.

In a warehouse, desperately struggling with improving performance to protect bottom-line health, claimed any changes to their standards of work had to be approved by HR.  HR uses the 70% rule; if 70% of the workers cannot meet the standard, the standard does not move or reduces until 70% of the workforce meets the standard.  What has the 70% rule bred; standards so low the company is losing money, hemorrhaging good and talented people for the dregs of society who have zero incentive to improve how they perform their jobs.  Raising the following issue with KPI’s, they should be designed to stretch the employee.How to Make Sure Your Goals Are High Impact - Business With Impact - Medium

Relevant KPI’s protect against measuring behaviors and punishing production.  KPI’s must change actions, and actions are a direct result of attitudes and behaviors shifting.  Thus, a SMART KPI is a growing experience where meeting the KPIs inspires individual growth and development.  However, a KPI is NOT a stick to browbeat, cajole, or destroy workers.  KPI’s are always a training device.  The discussion of KPI-centered goals should be a two-directional conversation between a manager and an employee where the manager shows the employee how to change behavior to meet the KPI.

GOALS

In goal setting, SMART changes slightly; however, the changes do not hinder KPIs from being included but promote KPIs being integral to SMART goals.  A goal is a method of grabbing opportunities and learning.  How does one learn; they change their behaviors into changeable actions, and learning is inspired.  SMART KPIs help to direct those actions, and a SMART goal is a goal that is:

      • Specific – A single action, simply stated.
      • Measurable – An action broken down into rates, times, or repetitions, producing a number.
      • Achievable – Can the goal setter bring the action into reality?
      • Realistic – How many people can make reality from goals, EVERYONE, provided we plan properly to take a desire and build a plan to achieve it.
      • Timely – What is the deadline, and can it be achieved?

A friend of mine has struggled with quitting smoking and losing weight.  Every year, the same New Years’ resolution, same goals, same failure shortly after starting.  Why the goal is never SMART, the goal is always, “I’m going to lose weight and quit smoking.”  When asked, my friend claims this is a SMART goal.  Here is how I suggested my friend restate his goal to become SMART:

      • Specific – I am going to quit smoking.
      • Measurable – Right now, I smoke 40-cigarettes a day; I want to cut back to 35 cigarettes, then 30, and drop by five cigarettes a month.
      • Achievable – My friend has proven he cannot “Cold-Turkey” from cigarettes, but he has proven he can cut back.
      • Realistic – My friend knows he can quit smoking, but how he quits remains the difficulty.
      • Timely – How fast will he quit?

The final SMART goal in 2018 was, “By the end of 2020, I will have quit smoking, by reducing my monthly intake by five cigarettes month-over-month until I am no longer smoking.”  While my friend has not quit smoking yet, the SMART goals have helped him mark progress towards his goal, and making progress in his KPIs keeps him motivated to achieve his goals.  What was his KPI; dropping five cigarettes a month of consumption.  Learning how to quit has been my friend’s biggest challenge, not the reality that he can quit, but how to markedly meet progress towards quitting.

Knowledge Check!Is it a problem that my friend has missed his annual goal; no, as he has had to learn to make progress.  The KPI is a target and a task; the goal is learning through applying effort, and together with the SMART KPI and the SMART goal, help achieve a new reality.  The SMART goal without KPIs is a cool aspiration.  The KPI without an overarching goal is wasted efforts, akin to a dog chasing his tail.  What happens when the dog catches his tail and bites down; the dog gets a pain in his rear for all the effort of chasing his tail.

Some practical advice for leaders as they SMARTen their KPIs and goals:

      1. The process is iterative. You are learning; allow yourself time to learn, make mistakes, and keep moving forward.
      2. Failure does not mean scrapping everything and trying something new. Failure means either the KPI or the goal were not SMART enough.  Hold an “After-Action Review,” these meetings are critical to improving the process of SMARTening your KPIs and goals.
      3. Know the why, share the why, lead the why! The “Why” is the most critical aspect in the KPI and Goal setting process; if a person does not know the why, they will never care about the how!
      4. When in doubt, explore the why for answers.
      5. Goals are like water, constantly changing, and cannot be contained and pressurized. You can use the pressure to lift others, but without creating a mess, you cannot stop it.
      6. Phones are digital, and computers are digital; people are analog. Expect people to amaze you, mystify you, and create new opportunities to change your goals and KPIs.
      7. If you think you need help, ask!

Asking for help is a sign of strength, and plenty of people are willing to help you develop; please ask.  I worked for an officer in the US Navy who refused to ask for help; his performance was impeccable because he wrote his evaluation which was then rubber-stamped by the commander.  On the day the charade ended, the cataclysmic disaster was epic.  This officer caved in like an old ashtray—a sad event producing painful consequences for everyone in the command and his leadership chain.  Use the SMARTening process of KPIs and goals as an exercise in growth and development, and the results will surprise you.

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Honest Praise – Catch Your People Doing Good!

My professional library has many books, from many authorities, regarding how to lead, leading in change, crisis leadership, and more.  Except that none of these books ever discusses the most critical tool in a leader’s toolbox, issuing honest, timely, and relevant praise.

I am one of those people who had to repeat a grade in school, and I am glad I did, for it provided an opportunity to meet Miss Murphy in the Governor Anderson Elementary School, Belfast, Maine.  Miss Murphy has a smiling face, but you know there is a stick hiding nearby if needed.  Miss Murphy laughed and smiled, and was the first principal I had witnessed behaving in this manner.  Miss Murphy had laser eyes that sparkled with mirth and could freeze rushing water.  Miss Murphy was a nun who went into the world to make the world better, especially for children.

As an energetic person, a person with problems with authority, and a guy, I spent an inordinate amount of time in the principal’s office in school.  Please note, I am not bragging here, just recognizing an “uncomfortable truth.”  Miss Murphy related a story to me, from her childhood, about how she had been called to be a student crossing guard, where she exercised her authority a little too much, and some kids cried, parents called the school, and complaints were issued.  Her school principal called her into his office, she could clearly see on his desk the complaint forms, but her principal spent more than 10-minutes praising her leadership ability, her genuine care for smaller kids, and other observations where her good personality had been witnessed.  Miss Murphy claimed she left his office forever changed.

The day Miss Murphy related this story to me, she praised me.  I knew that she knew, I had heckled a teacher mercilessly in an unwarranted manner.  I knew that she knew, I had committed several other offenses needing her judgment and punishment.  Yet, she provided honest praise, where she had observed quietly, and she concluded this visit to her office with the words, “From these observations, I know there is good inside you.”  I can honestly say, this was the worst chewing out I ever had in a school principal’s office.  I left her office that day, feeling small and insignificant like never before, but also feeling like a million bucks and dedicated to being caught more often doing good.  More to the point, I had discovered what a leader is and made a friend that I wanted, desired, and hoped I could receive more praise from.

To the leaders in business, I would make the plea, “Catch your people doing good.”  Catch them regularly, praise them honestly, issue the praise promptly, and you will shortly see new behaviors, attitudes, and cultures in your workplace.  I have published this plea previously and been asked some questions, below are the questions and some examples to get started.

  1. Isn’t all praise honest?
    • No, all praise is not honest. A pernicious lie has been passed around that criticism can be constructive; this fallacy needs squashed forever and cast upon the bad ideas from history.  You cannot build people by criticizing them.  There is never anything “constructive” in criticism!
    • Honest praise is precisely that, honest and sincere. You mean what you say, and say what you mean.  Hence, when you feel thank you is insufficient, leave a note in a distinctive color praising the efforts observed.
    • For example, I witnessed a leader who used praise to help ease the pain of failure. A subordinate had worked hard to make a satisfy a customer and fix a problem caused by the company.  The customer refused the apology and swore revenge, making the efforts of this customer agent useless.  The leader recognized the efforts and issued praise for trying, for being a generally successful customer advocate, and for going above and beyond.  The customer agent never realized someone beyond their team leader had observed their efforts, and the employee broke down in tears of gratitude for the honest praise issued.  I personally witnessed renewed dedication from this employee, and the impetus for change was the note of praise.
  2. Timely praise; why does praise need to be timely?
    • Timely praise is all about recognizing and issuing praise while the events are still fresh, and when the praise issued has a real chance at affecting an individual’s future efforts. Timely is all about being engaged in that exact moment and stopping to recognize, through praise, the efforts, trials, and experiences of others.
    • I worked at a company for three years, in what became my last quarter, I was issued praise for actions taken during my first month on the job. Honestly, that praise was useless to me, and while I didn’t fully spurn the efforts at recognition, I certainly was not swayed, inspired, or even influenced by the praise issued.  However, other incidents where praise was issued timelier has been more influential; thus, the need for timely praise.
    • The employee mentioned above, the effort expended occupied time Monday through the disastrous conclusion on Thursday. The employee came in to find praise and recognition on Friday Morning.  Timely, honest appreciation, proved to be what was needed and changed a life.
  3. Why should praise be offered regularly?
    • Let’s be honest, issuing praise adds work to your day. You have to make observations, then you have to issue praise, and this is a generally thankless effort; especially when you have to “Wash, Rinse, and Repeat” countless times to visualize a return on your time and effort investment.  I guarantee this effort will not last, no changes will be realized, and this attitude will be observed to cause more problems, not less.
    • Let’s be honest, issuing praise is fun. Witnessing a person who has been caught doing good provides excitement to replicate.  Catching a person doing good provides me a pleasure valve release from the stress of meetings, monthly and quarterly reports, and the hassles of leading an organization.  Issuing praise allows me to get out of my office, make human contact, and enjoy the people side of my job.  I guarantee this effort will last, that deep life-altering impact will be felt by those working for this leader, and employee problems will reduce to the lowest common denominator.
    • Regular praise issuance means you are fully committed to giving praise, and this effort will be reciprocated in a manner unexpected. Like the contagious smile, issuing honest, timely, regular praise, will catch fire and the contagion will spread and permeate throughout the office like wildfire.  Your customers will even catch the disease of issuing praise.
  4. Isn’t issuing praise just “puffery” or building snowflakes?
    • No! A thousand times; NO!  Honest praise, timely issued, and regularly provided is not “puffery,” but a direct extension of how you feel towards another person.  A child brings their mother a dandelion.  Does the mother squash the flower as just messy, or takes the flower and doesn’t issue thanks to the child; no.  Why should workplace praise and gratitude be any different than the child and their mother?
    • Issuing praise and showing gratitude is treating others how you prefer to be treated. Do you like seeing your efforts recognized; then recognize others.  Do you like being provided expressions of gratitude; then pass out gratitude.  People take cues from their leaders’ actions more than their words; issuing praise and recognition is an action with monumental power.
    • Myron Tribus asked a question about the purpose of a business essentially asking, “Is the purpose of your business to be a cash spigot or to improve the world?” If cash spigot, you would never issue praise or gratitude, and the money is the only focus.  In this scenario, expect high employee churn, higher employee stress, and poor employee morale.  If the purpose is to build the world, why not start by building the internal customer?  Do you issue thank you’s to your customers; why not issue gratitude first to your internal customer, the employee?
  5. Do adults, and working professionals really need all this praise?
    • Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Yes; working professionals do need to be praised.  However, because they are adults, false praise, criticism couched as praise, and fake praise is easily detected, and the resulting consequences are terrible to witness.
    • While serving in the US Navy, I experienced a Chief Engineering Officer who faked praise, criticized through praise thinking he was constructive, and his efforts turned the Engineering Department’s morale from high to depressing in less than seven days. The Engineering Department went from winning awards and recognition to absolute failure in inspections, drills, and daily activities in less than two-weeks.  The recovery of the Engineering Department’s morale never occurred in the remaining two-years I had in my US Navy contract and featured a big reason why I left the US Navy.
    • Thus, to reiterate; YES! Yes, adults need honest, timely, and regular praise.  Yes, praise is a tool that can be wielded to effect significant positive change or can be wielded to decimate and destroy.  Choose wisely!

 

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.