The acronym ‘KPI’, which stands for ‘Key Performance Indicator’, is something that is relatively new in our conversations. In contrast, objectives (or targets) have become more deeply embedded in our activities. So what is the difference? An objective defines what you want or where you want to go. For example, quoting from Vision 2021, ‘To achieve and sustain research excellence’ is an objective. A KPI, on the other hand, is a measure of how well we are doing on the path to achieving the objective. It follows therefore that in setting our objectives at the outset, they must be quantifiable. So, we might decide to measure research excellence in terms of the number of 4* publications for REF, or the amount of research grant income per annum for a given unit. Critically, we must know how many 4* outputs or how much research income we need in order to have achieved our definition of excellence, ie to reach our objective. This is why it is so important to have crystal clarity on what the objective means in practical, quantifiable terms.
So why are KPIs important – isn’t it just bean counting? Definitively not. KPIs perform the important role of telling us whether we are on the right trajectory to meet our objectives. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, a strategy is a ‘living’ document that needs to be modified in response to external pressures. How do we know whether we need to change it? -through analysis of KPIs. Hence the old adage that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Without KPIs, we could blindly follow a given path, only to find 5 years or so later that we’ve been wasting our time.
So what KPIs are relevant for SAgE? That’s largely up to us – we can choose whatever KPIs make sense, but I would suggest that they must not be too difficult to quantify. The important thing is that they effectively measure our progress on the journey to our Vision 2021 objectives.
Council will want to know how we are progressing towards our Vision 2021 objectives, and we will report to them through KPIs later this year. Over the summer we will therefore be refreshing KPIs in each school – thoughts on the appropriate measures are most welcome.