Growth KPIs are fine. But choosing growth as the goal will come at a cost to long term stability and profit.
I think of Pinky from Pinky and the Brain, making big moves to take over the world that always failed, when all he really wanted was a friend.
I think of the stereotypical young startup culture that has become the butt of jokes on TV shows about startup culture.
I think of the Wells Fargo pressure cooker sales culture that resulted in employees opening fake accounts for customers.
Last week we used the KPI gone wrong example of an airport TSA checkpoint where the goal was to get people through faster. By continuously upping the speed target, the real goal of improving flyers’ airport experience, was achieved, and then completely overshot once travelers were being yelled at for not getting ready fast enough.
So what’s an alternative to KPI tunnel vision?
OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). The idea is that you set a non-measured objective, something aspirational, that everyone can get behind, like “Understand my audience better.” And then you back your way into what metrics matter by setting some goals around “key results.”
With OKRs, a good airport objective might be something like, “improve flyers’ airport experience.” And then the key results would be measurable goals, ideally set quarterly or so, and determined by what flyers thought would improve their experience, something like:
- 95% of people get through security within 10 minutes
- cut the number of people who just miss their flights by 25%
When you set the big visionary goal, and then try to break it up into actionable chunks, its harder to go awry, because the measures always trace back to the bigger picture.
Another trick to staying on track: When you choose growth KPIs, the temptation is to do whatever it takes to hit them. When you choose helpfulness objectives, the key results are almost never around growth.
Growth is either the goal you set that comes at the cost of business health or user experience. Or its a natural byproduct of a healthy business with happy users.
If you set your sights on growth in the short term, you will achieve short-term growth. But without putting users first, it will come at the expense of what matters most, your users.