Use RCA to Drive KPI Engagement


Key Performance Indicators are important in every kind of business. We use them to keep ourselves on track and to know where we stand at any given point. They help us create a progress map and project where we’ll end up on December 31st. At this point in the year, the end of the first quarter, your KPIs are likely established and the work to monitor them is well underway. Hopefully, they’re also paired with impactful goals that make sense to your team and will take your business to the next level. If they’re not, now is the time to ask yourself why you’re tracking that metric before any more time or space on the dashboard is wasted.

This article is for the rest of the year when keeping your teams engaged with the KPIs is the name of the game. More good news: you can use a tool you already know very well to understand where your KPIs stand with your team. That’s where root cause analysis comes in.

Questions to find the root cause of KPI disengagement

Some people love KPIs and goals while others are never going to. When we’re in problem solving mode, we’re most likely to look into the latter and find ways to improve things, such as using questions like those below to understand what’s happening and why. On the flip side, if people really like their KPIs, asking these same questions could also help. Those lessons would be valuable to keep the momentum going with future KPIs or to help another department that might not be so enthused about their KPIs. Either way, the following questions will get you started on the path to everyone feeling better about their KPIs.

  • How do you know people are disengaged? What clues do you have? If it’s as simple as hearing complaints, ask for more information. Just showing interest in what’s going on could help. Sometimes people just want someone to listen. Ideally, you’ll also be able to address the concerns or find someone who can. Put those concerns into a fishbone diagram and dig until you understand what’s going on. The KPI itself may also be indication that either something isn’t going well or that the KPI isn’t the right one to track.
  • Ask “why” people feel the way they do. Then ask “why” four more times to really get to the bottom of things. You’ve probably used the Five Whys a thousand times before, so apply that experience to a new question.
  • What does it take to calculate or find the KPI? One of the quickest ways to move that KPI to the bottom of someone’s list is to make it cumbersome to determine each week, month, or quarter. If you’re seeing that people are procrastinating on it or it’s hard to get the answer from anyone, it could be because the KPI is hard to get. Ask the person who has to pull it together, the one who knows exactly what it takes to find the KPI. Use your curiosity to listen to their response and ask more questions that will help you understand completely what the KPI requires of your team.
  • How does the KPI relate to goals that are relevant to people’s core jobs? If someone understands how the KPI will help them do the job, they will be much more likely to calculate it, and notice valuable trends. If they don’t understand, the KPI will feel like bureaucracy, like something they have to do to stay in compliance or out of trouble. That usually doesn’t help anyone. If somehow the KPI is valuable and it also doesn’t relate to the most important work, you’ll need to help people understand why it’s still necessary. Better yet, ask for ideas of other KPIs that could help instead.
  • How were the KPIs chosen? Did the team have any say in them or were they handed KPIs someone else thought were most important? A very effective stressor to wear out your team is to give them no control over what they’re doing. That’s where we get the stereotype of the worker who’s doing what they’re told and nothing more, not understanding why, and hating every minute of it. In fact, one way to reduce someone’s stress is to give them more flexibility in what they’re doing or how they’re doing it.

Improve KPI engagement

Once you’ve found the root cause or causes of the KPI disengagement, do something with this new information. This will show your team that you cared enough to improve the situation. It will also make them more likely to participate in your future endeavors to understand what’s going on. That alone could be reason enough to take quick action on the concerns they’ve shared.

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