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The Ultimate KPI

By October 25, 2015March 15th, 2019Advice, Business

There is a whole industry out there engaged in assisting businesses to set Key Performance Indicators as a means of encouraging desired behaviour and alignment with an organisation’s goals and objectives.

For me, there is really only one KPI. “Turn up each day ready to work, and do your job”.

Now I understand that this is an oversimplification of the complex issues around goal congruence, personal motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic, reward structures, remuneration packaging, incentive schemes, alignment of values, the whole nine yards. In the end though, if everyone in an organisation turned up and did their job, it is likely that you would never have to think about that other stuff again.

Measurement of my ultimate KPI can be done quite simply by asking a couple of questions.

1. Did the employee concerned attend work regularly, i.e. was there no significant unexplained absenteeism.

2. Did they do all of the work that was assigned to them in a timely fashion and meeting the quality standards expected by the business.


I hear a whole industry screaming at me that there is more to it than that.

  • What about contribution to innovation? (if that is expected refer to 2 above).
  • What about alignment to the goals of the organisation (as business owners and managers it is our job to assign tasks to team members that are aligned with the business goals – refer 2 above)
  • What about motivation? (If they turn up ready for work, they are adequately motivated – refer 1 above)
  • What about their impact on the rest of the team (if they do 1 and 2, the rest of the team will be happy enough)
  • What about a happy workplace (if it isn’t they won’t do 1 above)
  • What if they don’t feel fulfilled? (What if they want to be a fighter pilot, may be they need to consider not doing 1 above)
  • What if the work that they do is not adequate to meet the business targets of the organisation (What if it is not their responsibility to generate enough work, if it is then that is part of the work assigned to them, if it is not, then it is not part of their KPI – refer 2 above)
  • What if they distract others from doing their work (if they are ready to work, this won’t happen – refer 1 above)
  • What if they are not stimulated and challenged by the work that they do (what if the business doesn’t have any of that kind of work to assign to them – refer 2 above. Maybe they need to reconsider their response to 1 above)
  • What if the standard of their work is not adequate (then they didn’t do their job, refer 2 above)

I could go on, but I don’t want to labour the point.


It seems to me that we tie ourselves in knots trying to find a complex answer to a relatively simple problem. As managers and business owners, if we provide an environment where all of the team turn up ready for work and do their job, the goals of the organisation will be met. Rewards and incentives can be structured to encourage behaviours, but in the end if they do not encourage achievement of this ultimate KPI, then they are largely a waste of time and effort.

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