Setting metrics can be hard! We’ve listed some of the more frequent mistakes that we see founders make, to help avoid them.
Hard to remember: Don’t choose metrics that are confusing, or have so many that they’re hard for people to recall. If you want your team to make decisions with a metric in mind, it’s critical that they can remember them. Have as few as possible, and make sure they’re simple enough for everyone to understand.
Ship goals: Sometimes product teams will have a measure of success like “get feature X live to customers on time”. This is sometimes necessary, but when repeated, it leads to teams optimising for output rather than outcomes. Have metrics instead that show that the feature is being used and adding value to your customers.
Setting and forgetting: It takes time to get value from the set of metrics that you choose. Often teams will go through the process of choosing their metrics and targets, and then not report on them. This destroys any value you’ll get from them. Make sure that you report on your chosen metrics and reflect on progress. Without this it’s very hard to create accountability.
Don’t cargo-cult: In programming, “cargo-culting” is when you of copy code from one program into another where it doesn’t serve any real purpose. It’s tempting to choose a key metric that made sense for Facebook or Spotify, and copy that. Avoid this – your business is unique and your measures of success probably should be too.
But… an ok metric is better than no metric: Often people argue about which metric is the perfect one, and end up with no measures. Having a metric that somewhat reflects progress is much, much, much better than having no measures at all. So use this as a guide, but don’t get hung up on dogma.