3 Questions to Help You Measure And Work Toward the Right Goals

Kara Powell | Mar 14, 2013

I love research. I love numbers. I’m married to an engineer and as I jokingly like to describe, “Dave never met a spreadsheet he didn’t like.”

As much as I love data, I love this question raised in a recent Harvard Business Review.

What data is most important to measure?

The goal of the post is to distinguish between data (basic numbers) and metrics (meaning what you measure, and thus what you work toward). The post opens with the convicting story of DoSomething.org’s allegedly “successful” YouTube video campaign that was a failure when measuring the actual goal: donations.

How many views make a YouTube video a success? How about 1.5 million? That's how many views a video our organization, DoSomething.org, posted in 2011 got. It featured some well-known YouTube celebrities, who asked young people to donate their used sports equipment to youth in need. It was twice as popular as any video DoSomething.org had posted to date. Success! Then came the data report: only eight viewers had signed up to donate equipment, and zero actually donated.

Zero donations. From 1.5 million views. Suddenly, it was clear that for DoSomething.org, views did not equal success. In terms of donations, the video was a complete failure.

As leaders, it’s tempting to measure attendance. That’s not a bad metric at one level, but just because someone attends, we can’t assume life change is happening.

Perhaps in addition (or instead of) measuring attendance, you might want to try measuring:

  • The number of students who have adults investing in them in a regular, ongoing way.

  • The number of conversations leaders are having with parents.

  • The number of students who can track the impact of your winter retreat two months later.

Note that in the 3 suggestions I make above, we are tracking numbers. I’m not opposed to tracking numbers. I just want to make sure we’re tracking the right numbers.

So if you want to make sure you’re measuring—and then working toward—the right metrics, try asking yourself these questions:

  1. What is our goal?

  2. What signs would tell us that we are accomplishing our goal?

  3. How can we measure these signs?

What do you measure to see if you’re moving toward the right goals?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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