When I was in college, automobiles were not quite as reliable as they are today. In those days, you often had issues with your vehicles that you lived with for a while or forever. I had a couple cars like that myself. Two issues I had with my old clunker cars come to mind under the topic of measurement.

I had a car where the gas gauge did not work and yet another car that the speedometer didn’t work. It’s not hard to see how these would impact your day to day driving. Both issues open up potential negative consequences, such as running out of gas when you had no idea you were low or getting caught exceeding the speed limit, again with no real idea how fast you were going. But hey, a little white knuckling while you’re young is okay, right?

There have been many times in my career, I’ve had that same feeling. I’ve come in to a situation and asked the questions but didn’t like the answers. How much does that product cost us? We don’t know. What was the return on that campaign? Not sure. How are delivery dates? We’re behind, but we’re not sure how much.

There’s enough “white knuckling” in running a business without creating more by not properly measuring the things that matter in your business.

I’m not specifically saying we should have more measurement, because we’re often inundated with data. We now have a whole industry known as “big data.” I’d suggest that it isn’t just getting a bunch of data together and “crunching” it. It’s about find the right data, the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that help you understand your business. Like the data missing in my old cars; how much gas do we have and how fast are we going. Some cars today will calculate your miles per gallon, average speed and other stats. Probably great data, but not as critical as the data that was missing in my old clunkers.

I use a GPS in my car, sometimes even when I know the route well. Why? Because my GPS gives me a critical piece of information I never had before: expected time of arrival. Takes into account my location, speed and traffic conditions. It’s a KPI of how I am progressing on my goal, which is arriving at my destination. We can find these new KPIs in our business. Today’s technology, like my GPS, make it possible to create new ways of looking at our progress.

Focus on finding the measurements that matter. Find the new “ETA” computation in your business that will truly make a difference. Make sure you’ve covered the basics, the equivalent of the gas gauge and speedometer. The key to improvement is not reams of data, it’s finding, creating and understanding the right ones.

What KPIs matter to your business? Have you ever measured things that didn’t matter?

I have to end now, as my “total words in this blog” KPI is over 500…

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/
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