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Can metrics truly change the direction of the company?

I facilitated a very interesting strategy session recently. The client had created a strong strategy map and was in the process of finalizing metrics for their Balanced Scorecard. One of the key goals was to expand the reach of their services, and the vision for the future was to drive positive client results in all 50 states… but the discussion that ensued significantly changed their strategic direction.

The primary way this organization had impacted clients in the past was through face-to-face client consulting, and they only had a team of ten to make it happen. These ten people were very good and very successful, but only traveled a six-state geographic area. If face-to-face consulting were to be done in all fifty states, an (impractical) tenfold increase in staff would be needed. This led to a delineation of direct impact via face-to-face consulting versus influence, which could be accomplished through partnerships and distance education. In sort, thinking through metrics made the leadership team acutely aware that they would need to change their delivery model significantly to hit the 50-state goal.

This is itself was a positive result, but it didn’t stop there. The discussion made the leadership team realize there were two types of customer. The preferred type shared the values of the consulting organization and actively tried to implement recommendations. The non-preferred type would listen, then go back to doing things the way they’d always done them. The CEO pointed out that in the past they’d always taken whatever business was available without asking whether it was the “right” type of client. As a result, their consultants were spending a significant proportion of their time working with clients that would not act on their advice, which served no purpose and squandered valuable resources.

So what happened? By pre-qualifying prospects, it was projected that the face-to-face group would be able to roughly double the number of states in which they had direct impact in the short term, while partnerships and distance education would be the means of influence in the rest (for now). The point is that thinking through the implications of a single metric re-shaped the way they would attack the market and achieve their goals.

That’s what good metrics can do.

Ralph Smith

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