The late Peter Drucker, management consultant guru, famously stated “what gets measured, gets managed.”1 This idea has spawned a number of publications and research into the development and use of key performance indicators (KPIs) or performance measures. For example, a Google Scholar search of “performance measures” alone produces nearly two million results. All of that work has provided us with several generally accepted reasons that organizations find performance measures useful.
Reasons to Use Performance Measures
For instance, performance measures can help organizations to:
- translate organizational strategy into desired behaviors and results;
- communicate stakeholder and leadership expectations within and outside of organizations;
- monitor progress on specific organizational goals;
- troubleshoot process or personnel inefficiencies;
- generate stakeholder and staff feedback;
- and create motivations by providing a framework for performance-based rewards and sanctions.
Obstacles to KPI Implementation
Many leaders throughout the private and public sectors appreciate the benefits that performance measures provide. However, in our experience, school district leaders often have concerns about the time and resources needed to effectively develop, monitor, and use performance measures. At the beginning of each consulting project for a school district, we compare the district’s performance measures to our calculations. This comparison guides our interview process. But school district leaders encounter many obstacles when considering the implementation of a comprehensive performance measurement program. As a result, school districts often do not have meaningful KPI data. Through client interviews, we have found that some of those obstacles include the following items:
- Time spent implementing the program takes away from an employee’s ability to complete day-to-day tasks.
- Limits within the system prevent the generation of reports.
- District-wide buy-in on most initiatives is difficult to accomplish.
- Too many data points create “paralysis by analysis”, bogging down decision making.
Meanwhile, stakeholders increasingly call for more effective schools without providing additional funding. Therefore, this more restrictive environment requires management decisions grounded in data and fact, as the potential fiscal impacts of an under-informed decision are too high to bear.
A Consultant’s Perspective on Performance Measures
As a consultant at Gibson, I believe that school district leadership must view a comprehensive performance measurement system as a necessary and highly valued management tool. Additionally, I am dedicated to helping school districts improve their effectiveness, efficiency, and fiscal responsibility. Furthermore, I believe that performance measure programs improve school districts on all of these aspects. Therefore, over the coming months, I will dive deeper into the benefits of performance measures. This deep dive will provide insight on how to overcome the many obstacles school districts face in implementing a program. Please check back here for future updates.
Finally, if you would like to learn more about how to implement a comprehensive performance measurement program, please contact me, Mr. Kent Ingram, or our president, Mr. Greg Gibson. Additionally, you can browse one of our reports that includes several performance measures.
1Drucker, P. F. (1954). The practice of management. New York: Harper & Row.