Data-driven Leadership: How to maneuver with KPIs


With clearly defined KPIs and a solid data base you are far better equipped to guide your team and reach key goals. Here are three steps to consider when implementing KPIs.

Business leaders have long used KPIs (key performance indicators) as a valuable tool for implementing strategies. Regardless of the situation, you want to know what’s happening so you can maneuver in the right direction. Effectively applied, data can be used to guide decision-making, optimize processes, and reach goals across all levels and functions of the business.

While there are many factors to consider when implementing KPIs, there are 3 steps in particular that will help you guide your team to success.

1. Set a course

A KPI is a measurable value that helps guide organisations towards their goals.

To function effectively, KPIs must be linked to the company’s strategic goals. These are then broken down at a tactical level (department) and then at an operational level (individual), so that everyone in the company gets ownership of the goals.

Choosing the right KPIs can be tricky. No matter which KPIs you land on, do not measure too many KPIs just because you can. When there are too many figures to keep track of, goal management becomes too complicated. Each department should only deal with a handful of carefully selected KPIs.

What are KPIs for marketing, sales, finance, customer success and more? See KPI Examples.

2. Navigate

In order to navigate with KPIs, data must be presented in a way that is easy to understand and access. This is done with the help of KPI dashboards.

KPI dashboards use data visualisations to help you continuously evaluate performance and make necessary changes. Easy to understand graphs and charts help you assess what’s happening and what you can do to improve.

By using KPIs effectively you will be able to answer questions such as:

  • What is the  current performance level (status)?
  • How close the company, team, department or individuals  to their target (actual versus target)?
  • How is performance changing over the past days, weeks, months (trend)?
  • How is our performance compared to  to internal or external standard (benchmark)?
  • What an we do even better (segment analysis)?

With these answers on hand, it’s easier to anticipate and adapt to changing conditions.

3. Implement and follow-up

It is essential your organisation has a common understanding of goals and what you are trying to acheive. Many strategies fail because goals were communicated once, but not continually reinforced. Leaders must gain and maintain commitment by ensuring their teams understand what they are trying to acheive and why they are focusing on exactly these measurements.

Once teams are committed, KPIs are the basis for coaching, acting and motivating the organisation. Every step towards reach targets is an accomplishment which should be recognized.

The real value of working with KPIs is realised when KPIs are used consistently and regularly in leader meetings, team updates, and one-to-one meetings. If all indicators are pointing in one direction, it doesn’t help if no one follows them up.

Final word—Make it simple.

Many organisations struggle with the complexity and diversity of their company’s data. Data specialists, sales operations, department managers and upper management can spend a lot of time gathering data and charting KPIs.

Businesses should set up modern systems to organize KPI-data without manual routines. The majority of businesses have more than enough data in their current databases.

An effective business intelligence tool will gather performance data, organize it into meaninful information, and help you motivate your team towards successful goal acheivement.

Additional resources: Visit the KPI Gallery to see best practice examples of how to visualize KPIs for sales, service, finance and more.

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