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Tracking Performance: A “Do” For Every “DON’T”

A 2009 Harvard Business Review article describes what the author defines as “the five traps of performance management.” But this isn’t all bad news. Each “trap” serves as a reminder of the opportunities available for monitoring your company’s progress.


1. Measuring against yourself


 – Becoming blind to competitors

 – Having no gauge of your performance relative to your clients’


 – Learn more about your competition.

 – Research potential changes in expectations within your arena.


2. Looking backward


 – Narrowing focus to simply improving upon the past

 – Losing sight of the ultimate goal (What are your future expectations, 
               and why?)


– Consider how current decisions will affect coming weeks, months, 
              or years.

– Find leading metrics rather than lagging metrics. What achievements
  would precede growth or success, rather than being indicators of
  current success?

3. Putting your faith in numbers


 – Restricting your ability to gather new insights

 – Focusing on popular metrics (e.g., Net Promoter) rather than the most
   appropriate metrics for your company


 – Broaden research to include qualitative measures.

 – Determine what a true indicator of your company’s success would be,
   and whether that concept can be accurately measured numerically.

– Broaden focus to include what you DON’T do as well as what you DO
   (deals that you DIDN’T go after, consumers who are NOT yet your
   customers, etc.).


Gaming your metrics


 – Tempting managers to manipulate that metric

 – Narrowing employee focus to simply moving that number, rather than to 
   grasping the bigger picture of how your company grows and competes


– Consider a range of metrics that offer a broader view and are difficult to
  manipulate simultaneously. 


Sticking to your numbers too long


 – Managing to a metric that no longer signifies success for your company
               or industry


– Evaluate how your company has evolved and how that evolution has
   shifted expectations and goals.  Consider whether your current metric
   still reflects your company’s definition of success.

Performance tracking is useless (or even detrimental) if it becomes just one more number in a report or one more item on the to-do list. Keep these "traps" in mind as you develop your management plan, and make them work as "opportunities" for your company.

Cortney Lantry
Director, Marketing Sciences 

   Likierman, Andrew. “The Five Traps of Performance Management.” Harvard Business Review. October 2009, 96-101.


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