In the past month or so with blogs on KPIsKRIs and measures that don’t really matter I have been attempting to convince you to improve your measurement of what really matters in your organisation so that you can make better decisions. Along the way I have mentioned that some measures can actually hurt an organisation. 

This week I wanted to highlight a particular type of measures that can be harmful. Milestones. 

Milestones as the name infers are solid markers of progress on a journey. You have either made the milestone or you have fallen short. Elite athletes are milestone driven. Batters in cricket crave a century of runs. As batters approach 100 the pressure builds as the milestone becomes alluring close. Hence the saying “The nervous nineties”. Same for golfers. The best of the best are judged on how many major championships they have one. 

Take the great US golfer Tom Watson. Watson first played on the PGA Tour in 1968. At the 2009 British Open at Turnberry in Scotland, at the age of 59, Watson had about a nine-foot putt to win. It was captivating. 

All I can say is that the milestone of being the oldest player to win a major must have got inside his head. That is, he experienced brain-numb(er)ing. He probably never hit a worse put in his entire life.

The next time you are thinking about setting targets, think how an employee will feel when their milestone is alluringly close. Think of the decisions you are tempting some people to make. People may drop the margin in a proposal or a sales offer to get the sale before the bonus KPI cut-off date. Had they not had the pressure, they may well have cut a better deal a week or two later. 

Speaking of tempting people, can I tempt you with a free breakfast offer? The topic for discussion will be “What does it take to be a persuasive adviser?” If you are tempted, message me with the word “milestone” and I will get in touch to book you into one of my breakfasts this year. The next one is Wednesday April 10 and I have a spot for you at the moment.