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6 critical measurement mistakes and how to avoid them

3 min read


This guest post is by David Carder, vice president and executive consultant at The Forum Corp. He is an expert in the areas of emerging talent development tools and high-impact development experiences.

The measurement of development efforts often fails because organizational effectiveness teams tend to fall into one of six traps.

  • Lacking alignment with what really matters to critical stakeholders.
  • Building plans that are too elaborate.
  • Defining measurement approaches that can’t be practically executed.
  • Defining tracking mechanisms in areas where the resources to execute on them aren’t bought in or don’t have permission to follow through on the work.
  • Lacking alignment of measurement work with cultural norms and expectations.
  • Missing the mark in terms of measurement-capture tangibles, presentations, or scorecards.

What works: An impact workshop

To mitigate the effects of these traps, we’ve refined our measurement strategy catalyst into a collaborative and visual workshop design. Among the key elements of the workshop create real measurement breakthroughs:

  • Getting the right people in on one conversation: executive sponsors, business leaders, subject-matter experts, core team members, people playing analytics roles, and people representing marketing, finance and strategy functions
  • Using a specific “question logic” for the conversation that moves it through a tested series of steps to create alignment, new thinking, and reality-based plans
  • Relying on skillful facilitation practices including dilemma management, or acknowledging and working through the natural tensions in measurement execution

3 examples of measurement breakthroughs

  • Financial Services Organization. This client company brought a passion for measuring sales-cycle time through its pipeline/selling stages to the workshop. But the workshop brought to light several things not previously considered: lessons learned in other parts of the organization related to cycle-time challenges, variability of cycle time across products, and practical challenges of tracking cycle time in a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Company leaders ultimately chose to eschew measurement of sales-cycle time in favor of focusing on three specific quantitative metrics: precise items on the company’s customer engagement survey, number of new relationships and the pace at which they progress, and revenue-per-relationship growth over time. Not only could these metrics be linked to sales organization development efforts, but perhaps more importantly, senior stakeholders could believe in, support and reward for them.
  • Global Insurance Organization. This client company equipped its sales organization to execute a dramatically new selling approach and process. The mix of participants, process and workshop facilitation produced a dramatic simplification of the way sales opportunities are tracked, following the new selling approach. Complex infrastructure and centrally administered plans were replaced by simply trusting the day-to-day coding done by individuals, supported by a focused communication plan.
  • Financial Services Organization. This client company’s team members realized that to be credible with key stakeholders and organizational culture, they needed tangible evidence of how specific behaviors impacted customer and financial measures. Examples of these behaviors included accessing senior-level customers and executing core team strategic relationship planning meetings. As a result of this realization, the team created a customized behavioral survey that quantified demonstration of behaviors and captured a wide range of vivid success stories. These behavior metrics and stories provided the color and nuance needed to support larger metrics tracked over time.

In all three of these examples, the client company achieved breakthrough thinking about measurement work to pursue. If you are spinning your wheels trying to get buy-in to and resources for your initiatives, or recognition of the results your development initiatives are adding to your business, these techniques can help you get immediate traction.