Public Safety Insights Newsletter: How to Create Meaningful Measures

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February 10, 2016 VOLUME 4, ISSUE 2
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How to Create Meaningful Measures
Public Safety Insight: Whether used in a strategy, an annual report, or a promotional process, meaningful measures make your life easier. 

By “meaningful measures” I mean indicators that demonstrate performance and/or outcomes clearly to the target audience. For example, in a strategy, measures reveal to stakeholders the progress toward, and achievement of, organizational goals. In an annual report, they demonstrate the value you provide your community. In a promotional process, metrics enable you to differentiate between qualified and unqualified candidates.

Unfortunately, “metrics” or “measure” is a word that can intimidate even the most accomplished leaders. Although measures are an indispensable leadership tool, the reality is that developing meaningful indicators can be challenging. Here are nine suggestions to help make that process easier for you.

  1. Focus on measuring RESULTS that are meaningful to your target audience (vs. activities).
  2. To determine what results your stakeholders find meaningful, ask and answer two questions from your audience’s perspectives. (Note: when you have more than one type of stakeholder, be sure to address each one’s interests.)
    1. So what?
    2. What’s in it for ME?
  3. Include measures of progress as well as of achievement, especially for long-term goals.
  4. To identify relevant measures, ask yourself these questions: "How will stakeholders know when we have achieved this goal or objective? How will they know when we have made progress toward achieving it?"
  5. Use measures that are as objective as possible, such as quantitative data or comparisons to existing performance standards.
  6. Use qualitative measures that assess more subjective outcomes that stakeholders value. For example, use relevant examples of behaviors or outcomes (e.g., "…as demonstrated by…") to describe a change.
  7. Be very, very specific. For example:
    1. Use action verbs that specify WHAT is to be done or what will change. ("Know" and "understand" are not action verbs.)
    2. Identify a specific person WHO is responsible for achievement of the goal or objective, and has the authority to do it. Though he/she may delegate it to someone else, he/she retains ultimate accountability.
    3. Specify WHEN the outcome or progress is expected (e.g., "by 3/15/16" vs. "in March 2016"), or time frame (e.g., "Within 90 calendar days of the Board’s approval of resources").
  8. Include one action verb per measure. For example, "Develop and implement a supervisory skills class" requires two objectives and two measures because it contains two actions.
  9. Put the measures in contexts that the audience can understand and appreciate. For example, percentages, ratios, and multi-period or "before and after" comparisons allow people to interpret and evaluate results effectively.

If you’d like more information about how to create meaningful measures, take a look at my article Solutions to the 5 Most Common Measurement Mistakes. For information about how to write an annual report that gets people’s attention instead of putting them to sleep, listen to my February 2015 IAFC webinar How to Write a Compelling Annual Report.  To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at

Public Safety Insights is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help first responders maximize their performance. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.


©2016 Pat Lynch | Public Safety Insights

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