Metrics drive behaviour. Organisations also know that they can better manage, what they can measure.

So if you want to change behaviours, look at the metrics you are using and how they are driving behaviours.

You also need to look at the models and frameworks in which the metrics are contextualised and which drive them.

The foundation

A while back I felt that an overarching model or framework for the modern organisation did not exist considering the many accelerating changes we face.

An holistic one that encompassed business needs as well as that of the individual and collection of individuals that go to make a business work.

One that was current and kept up with the times.

Abraham Maslow defined a model for the individual that started at a basic level and went through increasing levels of motivation through to actualisation.

It has been broadly adopted in many fields, including business and has survived the times. It focuses on the individual. I wondered if a similar model could apply to organisations and the Modern Organisations Hierarchy of Needs was born.

The application of an existing and accepted framework/model to a new field is nothing new and works if the respective fields have similarities and largely they do.

The new framework/model has been well received and even replicated since which is validation to some degree.

What is missing?

For one, the quantifiable, measurable determinants that would validate the levels and allow it be applied in a real world context.

Further external validation of the model itself is needed too.

I teamed up with Natalia Dobias (a colleague at Microsoft and a change management consultant) and we set about exploring the options.

One task has been to look at whether we could make the current model measurable and the reason for this post.

There are other factors we are going to look at to validate and indeed improve the model if we can.

In this post I wanted to work openly to capture and progress my thoughts on measurement of business performance in the context of the existing model. A classic sensemaking piece.

My theory is that if there are valid metrics being used out there for the many different levels and aspects of the current model, that is a form of validation.

What do good measures in the current model look like

On the basis of some simple Google searches I found a few good posts in each category and chose the ones that ranked at the top and I thought did the best job of covering the category. The exercise was simply to see if the category was covered and how well, as a proxy for its importance.

  1. Business metrics. Loads of results for this category as you would expect. Here is a great post that captures a wide array of business metrics. The author has done a good job of collating a range of metrics covering financial, human resource, marketing, sales and SaaS metrics. So many of these sub categories fit into mine below, naturally.
  2. Technology and Space metrics. This is also a broad area so some elaboration. This post covers the technology side on the pure IT function metrics but that is just one area. How technology helps achieve specific business outcomes requires delving into each business category the technology supports in helping to achieve those outcomes. That’s another area, for example, CRM tools are clearly designed to focus on driving revenue metrics for sales teams. Then, as with Microsoft where I currently work and perhaps uniquely, there is technology to help track personal and organisational productivity through use of technology. On space metrics, there is lots on the facilities management front, this post for example. What I was keen to find out was the impact of physical space on employees and any metrics that were used to judge that. Do a Google search on the keywords in italics and you will find much on the subject. I’ve kept these two areas together because technology is increasingly intertwined with the physical, think IoT, digital twins, etc.
  3. Culture metrics. Lots of results on querying this category. Some great pointers in this post and I thought worth mentioning because of its well rounded and holistic views on how culture impacts other areas, eg, innovation, collaboration, etc.
  4. Performance and learning metrics. My first port of call is metrics that HR departments will use to manage employee performance – great post here on that and many more besides. Similarly on the learning and development side which is a pretty robust field of study with a good post on that here.
  5. Creativity and innovation metrics. As I was hoping and expecting, tons of results on the innovation side and not just focused on R&D activities, the traditional domain for innovation performance measurement. This article captures some really good alternative metric categories for innovation. Creativity is a little more nebulous but is often tied into innovation. This discussion thread and in the last comment a whole bunch of excellent onward links, identifies the challenges and opportunities for measuring these two inter-related areas.

Other factors and new work models

In early discussions, Natalia and I have identified a bunch of opportunities for improvements and further work to develop a more robust model. I’ll share those here as we progress.

Metrics are just one aspect but you have to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any. This post does work that I never did on the model too, so is also a good start.

Metrics have shortcomings when they are purely business focused as I have been in this post. Without a sense check on ethical, social, humanitarian and other grounds, you could be blinded. By any measure (pun intended) there are some classic mistakes of this having gone wrong.

So the one thing that I think is missing from the model so far is the social impact of an organisation’s activities. Also the collective effort of the organisation – the network or community which was a problem identified in criticism of Maslow’s original Hierarchy of Needs – see underlined part that comes from Wikipedia. An organisation is after all a collection of individuals striving to achieve a singular purpose.

Natalia and I have our work cut out. This is a beast of an exercise but imagine having a “theory of everything” for the modern organisation. I’m looking forward to the journey in any event.

If you have any thoughts, research or experience to share, please hit us up in a comment below.

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