Metrics that Matter

Today, we have access to more data than ever before, and using this information and related metrics to make decisions is essential for organizations. What we often find, however, is that we are swamped with data, but don’t always find it useful. So how do you decide what to measure? Choosing effective metrics starts with effective planning, and that requires a focus on mission and sustainability first, and then on processes and resources needed to achieve mission in a financially sound manner (See the related whitepaper on Strategic Planning).

Aligning the Board & Leadership on Organizational Goals

Among a Board and leadership’s key responsibilities is answering this question: What do we want to achieve, for whom, and at what cost? The first two address mission – who are we serving and what problems are we addressing? The last speaks to what resources will be needed – financial, infrastructure, and human. Boards are uniquely positioned (or should be) to address the goal and population questions, while staff can identify what that will take in terms of services, processes, and resources. In an iterative process, staff and Boards then narrow what is to be accomplished and who the recipients of services will be until all agree that those goals are sufficiently meaningful (i.e., worth doing) and feasible given the resources available.

Creating a Strategic Plan & Identifying Key Metrics

Using a strategic plan that covers all those areas creates a starting point for determining the metrics needed:

  • Have the right people been served and at the expected numbers?
  • Are the desired outcomes being achieved?
  • Have the processes selected been followed and the right services delivered in the right way?
  • Are the needed resources available and are they being effectively managed?

Answering these questions requires that we shift focus away from data to information that answers questions that are meaningful and relevant to the end user, while remaining consistent across organizational levels (e.g., the sum of individual service volume reports should equal an aggregate service volume report). 

Avoiding data overload, which simply leads to no one paying attention, requires that everyone receive only the information they need to act quickly to address problems and to bolster confidence and pride in what is being accomplished. Less is usually more. And real time is essential.

Learn more in the full whitepaper. View the whitepaper to learn more about measuring mission-related goals, process efficiency, financial outcomes, and resource utilization. Find out how to make metrics useful for your organization in this guide from Maggie Labarta, Ph.D.

About the Author

Maggie Labarta

Maggie Labarta is Founder and Consultant at Impact Non-profit Consulting, having previously retired as CEO of Meridian Behavioral Healthcare. Labarta holds a Ph.D. in Clinical and Community Psychology and has extensive experience in both administration and clinical practice. She also has particular expertise in strategic planning, data and analytics as management tools, and organizational development. She provides consultative services for numerous community organizations.

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