KPI Butterflies and Single Metric Kaizen

In this post I outline the problem of real time stats and our tendency to become KPI butterflies, failing to focus. This affects our ability to implement continuous improvement disciplines, such as Kaizen. I suggest the solution is to focus on one metric, that’s relevant to our current stage of channel development, at a time.

I don’t know about you, but I seem to have trouble concentrating these days.


With so many inputs from so many different media channels, I am pulled from pillar to post on a minute by minute basis.


Fluttering from one thing to another, means we don’t focus long enough on any one thing to achieve Kaizen – “continuous improvement” – effectively.


When it comes to business metrics we have plenty to tempt us – whether it’s marketing KPIs, sales targets or financial results. But we must beware, this plethora of options is causing us to become KPI butterflies.


Like “social butterflies” at a drinks party, a KPI butterfly flits from metric to metric having brief, shallow dalliances, never dwelling long enough to create a sustainable relationship with that metric.


While a social butterfly at a party isn’t necessarily a bad thing, with our own businesses it can be fatal. Trying to focus on everything means we focus on nothing: we don’t improve, we keep going round in circles, going nowhere.


The net result is that either our startup will fail to take off, or our going concern will be outflanked by our, continuously improving, competitors.


How can we avoid this?


We need to change our beliefs.


Stop believing in the cult of real time


The first belief to change is that “real time” is best. This belief is dominant in todays analytics culture. In essence, it says – “the more up to date my data, the better my decisions will be”.


Now in one sense this is right – better, more up to date data, does make a better decision.


For instance in the home, there’s no sense planning this week’s shopping based on what was in the fridge last year – we want to know what’s in the fridge right now.


However as you get nearer and nearer to real time analytics, the incremental improvement in decision making is not always worth it, in some cases it can even create problems:



Taking my twitter content strategy as an example, does it really matter to know that I’ve got 130 twitter followers at this moment in time? Would it make much difference if I knew I had 129? Since I only plan my twitter strategy weekly I only need to know my followers accurate to the week, not to the second.


Real time stats can even have a damaging effect: for instance, seeing that I have 130 twitter followers one minute and 129 the next, while I am watching the stats could trigger the incorrect response. Does this fall imply that my readership is declining, my content isn’t working? Do I need to jump on this and change right away?


Clearly not, this should not inform my Twitter content strategy, as it may be an isolated incident, specific to that follower. Indeed the follower may reappear a few minutes later under a different account. The reality is that for some stats, I need to take a longer view, before jumping to a conclusion and altering my behavior to suit.


A healthier approach to tracking and optimizing metrics is to bake an appropriate metrics schedule into your own working processes.


My personal metrics schedule


To optimize my own Twitter account, I use a combination of a Rise board’s weekly update email and a repeating calendar entry. Every Monday I check my Twitter Activity Club email which shows me how many tweets I did last week, the week to week change and a sense of relative position versus other tweeters.




This allows me to think about my metrics properly for 15 minutes, at least once a week.


Now, with this habit in place, I am ready to make kaizen, small continuous improvements. I am no longer reacting to the impact of the most recent tweet, I am reviewing all the facts. By using a Rise board score algorithm I’ve got the advantage of best practice metrics structured correctly and relevantly for me, by the board manager, in this case, the Rise Social Media team.


Is this the only belief we need to change?


I think we also need to stop believing that the more metrics we display on our dashboard, the more in control we are.


In fact it’s often the complete opposite – having lots of graphs on your dashboard is indicative of someone who doesn’t know which KPI’s truly matter. They too are a KPI butterfly without realizing it.


In the GERM approach – digital metrics for really busy people – we are schooled to zoom in on the metric that matters for our stage of channel development. With “Getting Going”, the most important metric is consistency. In “Engagement” we care about responses from existing audience while “Reach” is about retaining and growing our audience.


Great optimization happens when you focus on the relevant metric. Let’s stop being KPI butterflies and start getting better today.


If you’re “Getting Going” on Twitter (and which of us isn’t?) then join me in the Twitter Activity Club to get a weekly update on your tweeting consistency. Or if you’re focused more on blogging right now then join me in the Getting Going at Blogging board on Rise. See you there!

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