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Define success, then choose the measures that matter most
If there's one thing we know about measurement, it's that you must start with a clear purpose and then define what outcomes matter most.
For example, you've likely heard many of these common quotes:
- "What gets measured gets done"
- "Measure what matters most"
- "If you measure it, you can manage it"
The most important element of good measurement starts well before you measure anything. In our practice at FlashPoint, we first start every project by asking: “What is the investment in this program going to solve for in the business?” Then, we focus on how to collect data that tells the right story to justify that investment.
Too often though, we see one of a few situations:
- Some leadership programs start out with a clear and strong purpose, which is great!
- Other programs don’t have a clear purpose to begin with, and often they struggle to show value.
- Still other programs start with a clear purpose but as the program continues and as things change, the purpose does not evolve and becomes weak.
These examples demonstrate why it’s believable that only 40 percent of L&D practitioners feel they capture their programs’ effectiveness (Harvard Business Publishing, 2016).
From our perspective, measurement can be a bit of a rabbit hole. It’s tempting to spend far more time and effort measuring things that aren’t worth the time or energy to measure because in the end some measures don’t convey the impact or value of the program very well.
But as Steven Covey said, it’s about “beginning with the end in mind.”
How FlashPoint helps clients measure leadership development outcomes
At FlashPoint, we have a six-part measurement framework that we use as a tool for client conversations. It helps us understand what’s important to clients and answer the question “What does success look like?” Each measurement plan comes out differently based on leader level, program length, investment, senior leader involvement, and more.
You can see below a few examples of how we began with a clear program purpose and that purpose led to a different set of measures that we tracked and analyzed.
Each of these programs, from Client A to Client C, had a different genesis or business challenge the program was attempting to solve for, though they were developed for similar high-potential audiences. The purposes of these programs set the stage for what metrics we collected and reported back to the business.
- Client A wanted to solve for lack of bench strength and internal promotions, plus low employee engagement among middle managers. Program metrics focused on how well it enabled promotions into successfully higher roles and how it impacted employee engagement scores.
- Client B was focused on solving for high turnover due to lack of upward mobility and geographic challenges. We focused on measuring high-potential retention with cross0functional opportunities.
- Client C sought to drive better business results and performance while increasing high-potential demonstration of key leadership skills. For this, we measured performance goal achievement and pre- to post-assessment scores of targeted leadership skills.
Measurement can be an overwhelming topic to consider. So don’t get overwhelmed. When it comes down to it, the first step is to be better than the majority of organizations who don’t measure anything! Do keep in mind the advice above to avoid measuring everything though—pick and choose thoughtfully, then follow through.
Related pieces on best-practices for designing leadership development programs:
- Design Leadership Development Programs that Succeed: Top Trends
- Leader Needs and Preferences Are Changing. Leadership Development Needs to Keep Up.