Lag Versus Lead Measures
While a lag measure tells you if you’ve achieved the goal, a lead measure tells you if you are likely to achieve the goal.
For example, while you can’t control how often your car breaks down on the road (a lag measure), you can certainly control how often your car receives routine maintenance (a lead measure). The more you act on the lead measure, the more likely you are to avoid that roadside breakdown.
We call them lag measures because by the time you get the data the result has already happened. A lead measure is predictive, meaning that if the lead measure changes, you can predict that the lag measure will also change. A lead measure is also influenceable; it can be influenced by the team.
It’s the data on lead measures that enables you to close the gap between what you know your team should do and what they are actually doing. Without lead measures, you are left to try to manage to lag measures, an approach that seldom produces significant results.
Lead Measures Can Be Counterintuitive
Focusing solely on the lag measures fails to drive results. Lag measures appeal to leaders because they are easy and more visual than data on lead measures. But it’s the data on lead measures that makes the difference — that enables you to close the gap between what you know your team should do and what they are actually doing.
Defining and Tracking Lead Measures
If you are serious about your WIG, then you must create a way to track your lead measures. Without data, you can’t drive performance on the lead measures; without lead measures, you don’t have leverage.
Lead Measures and Engagement
Coming up with the right lead measures is really about helping everyone see themselves as strategic business partners and engaging them in dialogue about what can be done better or differently in order to achieve the WIGs.
Defining Lead Measures
The key principle behind lead measures is leverage. Achieving your WIG is like trying to move a giant rock; but despite all the energy your team exerts, it doesn’t move. The problem is that effort alone isn’t enough. Lead measures act like a lever, making it possible to move that rock.