Keeping People Interested

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
– Albert Einstein

Every week we have a 45 minute class for our team on topics ranging from Business Development to Project Management. Sometimes we get into the technical nitty-gritty, while other times, we focus on business development and proposal development processes or improving project delivery. We call it “MCFA University,” and the premise is simple – 1 hour/week focused on learning new topics, sharpening our skills, and improving our systems and culture.

This week, we talked about KPIs. I know, KPIs…blah blah blah. KPIs are the vernacular of anyone involved in the management (and improvement) of organizations, people, and processes. But I was using KPIs to teach our Junior staff how everything they do, from searching and screening RFPs to tracking their billable hours, is connected to some part of “Getting Work,” “Doing Work,” and “Getting Paid.”

So while we are used to KPIs being the management dashboard of the health of our projects, departments, or organizations, KPIs really should be the scorecard by which every member of our teams knows they are “winning the day” and “winning the week.” Because if everyone on our team is winning the week, then at the end of the quarter, we should see the results we want on the “management dashboards.” (And if we aren’t, we can focus on the effectiveness of our KPIs or our systems, but that’s a topic for another week.)    

No one, and I mean NO ONE, hates the billable hour as a KPI more than yours truly, but it is a necessary evil in a world driven by rates and hours. After recently retiring as an attorney, my father-in-law said, “Today is the last day of tracking my life in 6-minute increments.” The billable hour as a KPI focuses everyone on the time economy vs. the results economy. It turns clients from people to help and problems to solve into “entities to be billed.” But it’s here to stay…for now.

So yes, billable hours, utilization rates, and overhead multipliers are the KPIs of the industry. I challenge you as a leader to think less of KPIs as Key Performance Indicators and more as a tool for “Keeping People Interested.” NO ONE WANTS TO BE A FAILURE. Maybe they aren’t in the right role, maybe they don’t have the capacity to do the job, or perhaps they aren’t a culture/core value fit. Whatever it may be, they can move to another role or another organization. But if you are looking to improve employee engagement and business effectiveness, think about what metrics your team needs at the individual level to help you win and keep them feeling like they are doing a great job AND helping the team win.

BJ Kraemer, President