I have written previously about not subscribing to the ‘if-you-can’t-measure-it, it-doesn’t-exist’ school of thought, but after speaking on this subject at a recent regional branding forum, I felt it needed revisiting.
To start with, I should be absolutely clear: in any business, strategies, goals and new initiatives need frameworks, accountability and clear governance. Budgets and timelines are an absolute minimum requirement, but I do not think that ‘success’ should be based on predetermined hurdle-rates and early outputs. All too often these become the very distractions that obscure a long-term perspective, and may even undermine the ability to achieve the most important outcome – to actually run the race, rather than to just plan for it and to report on it.
For example, networking is now accepted as a vital part of business culture and currency, but its value or contribution isn’t particularly measurable. New media introductions – from radio through to television – were never originally very measurable, and largely still remain so.
The problem is that measurement numbers are often more of an equation than a true indicator, and even with a more transparent medium like social media, calculating the impressions of a Twitter campaign by the numbers of tweets multiplied by the aggregate followers is pretty facile and largely irrelevant.
In a similar vein, direct sales results only reflect your active customer base – but not necessarily your total brand audience – and so do little to show where a particular campaign is ‘going’, rather more only where it has ‘been’.
If you believe that most breakthrough strategy is fundamentally about being ‘first to game’, do you really expect there to be both a roadmap and clear signposts? In fact, we could argue that if such measurements are clearly and obviously there, then the potential first-mover advantage is already – de facto – lost.
The most successful new campaigns and initiatives are not determined by measurement, but rather by an agreed and consistent commitment of resource and planning. The required outcome will follow if the strategy is well-conceived, well-directed and well-delivered.
That is the point of strategy: to commit to a particular result, and to communicate consistently and frequently how that result is going to be achieved – not how that result is going to be measured, or indeed how it is performing at any given moment. After all, you do not plant a garden only to dig it up every month to see how it is going…
So, three tips on project and performance measurement:
- Measurement is important, but it should capture both ‘hard’ (e.g. sales results) and ‘soft’ (audience/brand engagement) touch-points;
- Measurement should be part of a management framework, but projects must be allowed to incubate and breathe – measurement is not the ‘end’, it is just part of the ‘means’. Many projects fail not because they are ill-conceived, but because resources are pulled as a result of measurement anxiety; and
- A well-thought-out strategy or project needs commitment before it needs measurement – measurements can be altered, increased or nuanced as required; commitment needs to be full and absolute from start to finish.