KPIs have outlived their usefulness as the key management tool
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KPIs have outlived their usefulness as the key tool for leading a business - so why are you still using them?

leadership management Oct 15, 2017

In a world of low volatility, high complexity and which changes slowly you can manage. In a world where learning has a long shelf life and where some individuals know all and where the eldest is the most knowledgeable it's all about doing more of the same and more efficiently. In this world you need to manage.

In this context KPIs really help because we can direct, spot trends, make incremental gains and boost performance. You can get away with people 'just doing' rather than 'thinking and doing'. You just want them to operate more efficiently. And this is easy for us as this is what we were educated for... predictability and stability.

I don't know about you but I've noticed that the world isn't like that anymore! We live in a fast moving world where the velocity of change is gaining momentum - fast!

In a fast moving world where adaptability is so important the over reliance on achieving static KPIs is driving the wrong behaviour, often at the expense of collaboration, creativity, responsiveness and adaptability.

I see many organisations becoming overmanaged and underled, leading to poor performance.

Sadly in today's Digital Age I see leaders being part of a top down decision flow as part of their hierarchical position. I see leaders being promoted as technical subject matter experts, part of a department and contributing through experience and expertise of their specialised area. I see leaders gain power by their hierarchical position, coercion and their role in that group. They have a management style developed over the years to fit the role and how it has always been done.

They protect their turf, master the role of politics and fight a good cause from a limited perspective... ie they attend the right meetings, set targets they know they can meet and make decisions based on their own KPI's.

They manage the here and now, avoid risks, have clear and stable “mission, vision, values and objectives.” They cascade these down and create nice neat scorecards with hundreds of KPI's. They are in tell mode and check up on people using methods like appraisals to ensure they are doing what they want them to do. They run boring management update meetings, which in reality are a series of 121 meetings with other people in the room gaining no value.

My question is that in today's Digital Age, "why would you do that?"

In a world of volatility, uncertainty, high complexity and ambiguity which changes quickly and permanently you need people to think. In a world where learning has a short shelf life, where no one person can pretend to know it all, where value innovation and differentiation is the main focus, you cannot rely on just managing. You need to think, manage AND lead.

You are part of a network in which seniority has little to do with the influence you have. You contribute by influencing, persuading and negotiation with equals in group settings. You cannot succeed without collaboration with other groups inside and outside your organisation. You are part of a larger virtual team over which you have no hierarchical control, you need to develop several leadership styles in order to adapt to different and unstable conditions.

You need to achieve results today AND build sustainability for the future. You need to be bold, take calculated risks, grab opportunities, have an evolving strategy that inspires action in the right direction. You need to lead from the front not from the top. You have to be comfortable with leading without knowing the answers.

You need to simplify things, land change quickly, lead projects, identify, engage and manage stakeholders. You need to learn, adapt and apply at pace... over and over again.

You need to focus on efficiency AND effectiveness.

We need agile speedboats not slow moving oil tankers!

The role of rigid KPI's has gone. Bring on the Leadership Revolution!

If you want to learn more about how to lead and build winning teams in today's world you can find out about our next 2 day workshop here > Leadership Athlete Masterclass

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