Beyond KPIs & OKRs: How “measuring from below” enables innovation and true effectiveness

“Measuring from above” traditionally means measuring against a standard set in the past - against a set of assumptions based on customer research. The unstated assumption is that the customer data will be valid for at least some period of time in the future. OKRs and KPIs then give feedBACK against targets set based on management’s picture of what customers want. What is needed in our VUCA world, however, is feedFORWARD. That is, we must build a model of what customers will want in the future and act now against that model.

Too often innovative people in medium to large organizations have the feeling of being in a box - with startling new ideas - and no one really listens. In essence, these innovators are trying to “measure performance upwards.” This upward voice intrinsically measures strategies and customer impact, and applying the concept can significantly improve the overall performance without relying on top-down OKRs and KPIs. Moreover, “measuring from above,” tends to measure only the output of production. However, in the VUCA world, we’re living in right now, measuring the output of production is not enough for companies that need to survive and thrive on disruption. Although OKRs and KPIs have served the business world well in the past, in the future, companies need to focus on the truly important outcome: what is really making a difference for our customers and therefore for our company.

However, in a VUCA world, we cannot assume any sort of stability - the model of the future must change often if it is to be sensitive to changing conditions. The “view from below” is very likely to be more attuned to such changes than the view from the top, which necessarily operates at a more abstract, longer-term level. Without measurement from below, the measurement from the top is likely to become “old-fashioned” very quickly.

Adding “measurement from below” to a company can create a mindset that empowers everyone to follow their passion and interest and nourish the company’s effectiveness. Implementing a “from below” approach to measurement involves a fundamental shift that asks the company to synthesize a variety of new approaches.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the difference between feedback and feedforward
  • Learn what “measurement from below” means
  • Understand the importance of building a model of what customers will want in the future and acting now against that model
Jutta Eckstein John Buck
Session Format