Kevin Starr, a dear friend of ours and the CEO of the Mulago Foundation, where he finds and funds high-performance organizations that tackle the basic needs of the very poor, drilled this lesson into my head nearly a decade ago when we first met:
Know your mission. Measure the right thing. Measure it well.
It is the key to unlocking your ability to truly figure out what you are doing, and knowing if you are actually doing what you intend to do. And as obvious as this sounds — it is far from being applied by many.
Here is a real-world example (I swear, I am not making this up) of a mission statement I recently came across:
It is our purpose to empower organizations through the individuals that comprise them and take them to a level of innovation proficiency that creates outcomes in a prolific, systematic, and sustainable manner.
Now — first question: Do you even know what those fine folks are doing? And with which proposed outcomes? Define, as Kevin points out, your mission statement in the simple, yet powerful structure of verb-target-outcome: What are you doing, for whom, to what end. You can read more about this here.
Once you truly know (and can articulate) what you are doing, it is time to figure out what your success metrics are. Not vanity, not “we can, so we will measure it”, but the one or two metrics which truly indicate that you are making progress toward your chosen goal. What is the most important, reliant and irrefutable indicator of your progress? The one which is tied directly to your desired outcomes (hint: it typically is not revenue)?
Once you have your metric — make sure you are measuring it well. As for many of you, the metric won’t necessarily be a direct financial metric but rather something which feels a bit more “squishy” — how do you measure it in a way which gives you a rock solid indicator? Stress-test this with your most critical friends — it is easy to pick a metric and way to measure something which “feels good” but isn’t truly tightly coupled with your actual progress.
It sounds tedious and maybe superfluous — but you’ll see that once you get this neat, clean and tight, you will be navigating your ship with significantly more clarity and precision.