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  • Writer's pictureIan Crocombe

Communicating what you measure

Some preparation for a business pitch prompted me the other day to revisit the 'golden rules of communication'.

1 Know my audience

2 Get the timing right

3 Think about how the messages will be received

4 Don't confuse broadcasting with communication

5 Leave your ego at the door

In and of itself it was a good reminder but I had another, at the time unconnected conversation with a colleague about organisational metrics and it got me thinking.

How often do we think about the various dashboards, performance data and wizzy graphs that we produce in terms of what and how they communicate?

Most often, we worry about their accuracy (obviously), whether they show what the executive want to see, the deadlines for production, the actual task of producing the information and, frankly, sometimes ticking the box that says 'thank goodness that's out of the way again'.

The thing is, all of that information ought to be subject to the golden rules of communication.

Understanding the audience for the reports will quickly dispel the idea that one size fits all and in all probability reduce the volume of data you use. Get your measurement reporting tightly focussed on the needs of the audience and life becomes easier.

Question what drives the timing of the reports. Things like Board meetings, regulatory updates have drivers beyond your control but even in those circumstances we might question what effect it will have on the recipients sending reports out late on a Friday, over the weekend or just prior to when they're needed.

How will a data driven message be received? Well there's world of difference between a commentary that says 'we've failed to hit our SLAs again, what is the matter with you?' and 'we seem to regularly miss SLAs. What ideas do you have about why this might be and what can we do about it?'

Dumping (or broadcasting) measures driven reports might tick the box for 'getting it out there', but communication is a two way street and you really want something to happen as a result of the effort expended in creating it. How often do we really think about our measures as a driver of engagement, interest and response.

In any business or Charity, the point of performance metrics is not about showing how good or clever you are in producing them. The point of objective insight is to help the organisation sustain and grow. Leaving your ego at the door of a presentation is great advice. It also applies to measurement reporting.

We often fall into the trap of thinking numbers / metrics / measures - call them what you will, are just the outcomes of a data process or two and are an end in themselves. They are so much more important. They are how an organisation learns and improves, they shine a light on the health of the organisation, they reflect the efforts and performance of the people that bring the organisation to life and how it's customers or service users experience it.

My message is communicate your metrics, using communications best practice. Think before you produce, ask yourself what you want to happen as a result of your metrics and focus your efforts on helping that change come about. Data matters.

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