PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
Measuring Results and Establishing Value
At the end of the day, how do you know youve
been successful? What value are you providing to your organization
or clients? In todays climate of budget cuts and lay-offs,
its particularly important that you establish clear measures
of success before embarking upon any venture.
Fast Company magazine (October 2003) calls this the age
of accountability. The magazine reports that 78% of CEOs at
the worst-performing 20% of companies in the S&P 500 have been
replaced within the past five years. Clearly, from CEO right on
down to middle manager, no one is immune to the need to demonstrate
So how do you show youre moving the needle?
Establishing Effective Metrics
Effective metrics take into account the objectives of the initiative.
Who are you trying to reach? What do you want them to do? How will
you know that your initiatives goals have been accomplished?
These measures should be incorporated into any proposal or agreement.
In fact, a good rule of thumb is that if you cant measure
it, you shouldnt do it.
Measurement can sound daunting. People struggle with measuring the
results of individual initiatives for a multitude of reasons. For
example, they often view measurement as overly complicated, fear
they wont be successful at meeting goals or assume measurement
will be costly.
While measurement can be complex, it doesnt have to be. Heres
our suggestion for beginning the process of establishing measures
in any situation: When embarking upon a project, ask your boss or
your client or whoever is ultimately engaging your services, How
will we know weve been successful? Note the emphasis
In order to design effective measurement criteria, its critical
that everyone involved in the initiative whether actually
executing the work or signing the check that pays for it
has a clear idea of what success looks like. The implementer may
have a very different idea of victory than the person ultimately
responsible for the initiative. Its important to achieve consensus
before getting underway.
Metrics can vary between initiatives and dont necessarily
have to be quantitative. Its not always possible or desirable
to have a consistent formula for measuring every initiative. For
instance, some of our public relations colleagues talk about results
in terms of number of media impressions generated. These may be
valid components of a public relations metrics program, but measurement
shouldnt stop there automatically.
A public relations measurement program that includes only the number
of impressions or clips often stops short of addressing real value,
much like a meeting organizer who measures success based solely
on whether participants rated the day a 1 or a 5.
At the end of the day, its what meeting participants do with
what they learned rather than how much they enjoyed their experience
that really matters.
Outputs vs. Outcomes
Effective measurement should go beyond evaluating the output of
a program, such as number of media impressions or whether meeting
attendees thought the sessions were the right lengths, to examining
the program outcome output, such as a change in behavior or opinion.
A comprehensive metrics program should take into account the overall
objectives of the initiative whether key audiences were impacted,
leads generated or resources used more efficiently. After all, sometimes
lack of impressions is the desired outcome, such as when a crisis
occurs and it doesnt get overplayed in the media or an organization
is left out of a negative industry article.
It's also important to manage expectations regarding anticipated
results. Some organizations want to associate every activity with
increased sales or stock price. These outcomes are obviously mission
critical. However, its not always possible to establish a
direct link between all elements and these ultimate outcomes. Synergies
develop between activities that make them stronger together than
on their own. Theres also a domino effect if you get
individual components moving, they ultimately lead to the outcome,
but there are important in-between steps that need to occur as well.
A good example of this is McDonalds stock hitting
a 52-week high, after reports that sales increased at U.S. stores
for the fifth consecutive month. CEO James Cantalupo was quoted
in Crains Chicago Business as attributing the sales increase
to longer hours, efforts to improve customer service and new products.
The fact is that the increase may be due to any one of these areas
or all of them. Most likely, its some combination that resulted
in the ultimate outcomes and McDonalds isnt certain
what the exact formula is that resulted in the turnaround.
Fear of Failure
What if youre not successful in meeting your goals? Yes, associating
your work with outcomes creates vulnerability. But without measurement,
you will never know the extent of your accomplishments or the opportunities
that exist for improvement. Ultimately, youll be much more
vulnerable if you dont evaluate your results because you will
be subject to the mercy of popularity contests when budget cuts
roll around. If you do have a problem, the sooner you diagnose it,
the sooner you can start to set things right.
In designing measurement programs, we recommend incorporating diagnostic
elements as much as possible. That means we go beyond determining
whether a program is successful to uncovering why it worked or didnt
work. We can then apply our findings to the program being evaluated
as well as to other endeavors. For example, in our employee surveys,
we use advanced statistics to identify the key drivers of a desired
outcome. This enables us to provide our clients with two kinds of
measurement: First, whether they are meeting their goals; and second,
where they should focus resources to get the most bang for their
buck (or euro or yen).
Determining Measures of Success
Following are measures of success in which we have collaborated
with clients during the past ten years. Not all measures are quantitative
or particularly costly qualitative measures can also be effective
and can often be tailored to fit just about any budget size. The
key, as recommended earlier in this article, is to agree on the
measures that will be applied.
Within a McDonalds department, we gauged improvement
in the effectiveness of internal communications through progress
noted on key measures of an employee communications survey. For
example, after implementation of our recommendations, the number
of employees who agreed they had the information they needed to
do their jobs well increased from 47% to 79% (we actually exceeded
our goal of 72%).
When we developed a corporate messaging framework for Baxter
International, a critical evaluative component was the achievement
of consensus across multiple business units on messages that resonated
among key external audiences. When the messages had been tested
and refined through global qualitative research among medical professionals
and received widespread internal approval from Baxters senior
management, we knew wed hit the mark.
At Exelon Corporation, measures of success included our ability
to provide concrete recommendations regarding streamlining and improving
the efficiency of communications vehicles. Through a baseline communications
audit, we recommended changes in the utilization of communications
vehicles that resulted in savings in the six figures. We then conducted
a follow-up audit that quantified the Exelon corporate communications
departments resulting increase in effectiveness. The bottom
line: We helped Exelon save money while improving communications
For another company, we measured increases in officers
abilities to communicate with subordinates following individualized
coaching by surveying their employees before and after the training
sessions. Five out of eight officers had significantly improved
their communications skills, according to their employees.
We evaluated our success in designing an internal communications
plan and staffing function for another organization by whether the
recommended system was self-sustaining (didnt require the
continued use of an outside consultant) and allowed the company
president to use her time more effectively.
For a major retail chain that wanted to appeal to the challenging
teen market, we evaluated our ability to identify consistent and
compelling messages to use in communications with teenagers of various
cultures. Our focus groups helped identify three messages that allowed
the chain to confidently speak in one voice to teens
via the web site and other vehicles.
These measures helped us gauge not only our clients successes,
but ours as a company as well.
Jenny Schade is president of JRS
Consulting, Inc., a firm that helps organizations build leading
brands and efficiently attract and retain employees and customers. Subscribe to the free JRS newsletter on www.jrsconsulting.net/newsletter.html
© JRS Consulting, Inc. 2007