Metrics versus Goals

October 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

As a followup to my post on the Agile Church, our elder’s board is having a spirited discussion of the appropriate role of metrics and goals when leading a church.  My perspectives is that the main purpose of SMART Goals is to inspire operational metrics that enable continuous innovation.

In other words, knowing where we want to go is essential for prioritizing what we want to do; but, in an Agile world, we won’t know where we should be going until we get there.

To that end, I am deeply indebted to KISS Metrics for their article on How to Use a Single Metric to Run Your Startup.

“The One Metric That Matters (or OMTM) is a single number that you care the most about at the current stage of your startup (the OMTM will change).”

  1. It answers the most important question you have.
  2. It forces you to draw a line in the sand and have clear goals (defining success).
  3. It focuses the entire company.
  4. It inspires a culture of experimentation.

In particular, I love the point that “A rate or ratio is better than an absolute or cumulative value.”  Agile is all about improving velocity — doing better work with the resources we have — not contorting ourselves to reach arbitrary goals.

To be sure, finding the right metric for a non-profit is a perilous endeavor, in that the wrong choice can be devastating to individuals and the organization; of course, that is also true of for-profit metrics!  However, there is a growing body of research from impact investing that demonstrates the enormous value that is created when you do find the right metric .

The reality is that churches already measure crude metrics such as attendance and giving. Either we ignore them as irrelevant (at our peril), or we focus only on those (which could be worse).  I believe we owe it to God as our customer to wisely discern how  He wants our churches to grow in each “season”, and identify metrics to keep us accountable. Some possible metrics include:

  • First-time guests
  • Church members added
  • New baptisms
  • Number of regular, tithing attenders
  • Leaders trained/sent out
  • New ministry initiatives launched

There are no obvious right and wrong answers; the question is rather “What is a workable way to capture where God wants us to be growing?

To be clear, this is primarily a matter of spiritual discernment from the pastor (as the “Product Owner“). But, supporting that vision with the right metric will help flesh out the spirit!

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