Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mission or Metrics

If you don’t measure it you don’t know if you are getting there. When I first came to ABCTE I was stunned to find out that no one really knew if we were on our way to success or disaster. The organization had to become self-sustaining through the fees generated through the program but no one knew how many new candidates we were recruiting. This was a huge problem. One of the most critical metrics for success was not being tracked, no one responsible for it and ultimately it was not moving in a positive direction.

Also, a small non-profit is very much dependent on word of mouth and we didn’t know if our customers liked us or hated us. Finally, as a non-profit with a mission to help alleviate teacher shortages, we really didn’t know how well we were doing to that metric either.

So the first thing we did was start measuring our progress. We started with a simple spreadsheet that showed how many new people purchased our program and how many new teachers we graduated. Separately we started tracking the “would you recommend us to a friend” percentage to look at word of mouth in a survey to our candidates and teachers. (we eventually evolved into the net promoter score for customer satisfaction)

Once we knew where we were in terms of these metrics, we started setting monthly and yearly goals. It is always difficult setting goals in a start-up but within two years you get a lot closer to setting very realistic and achievable goals.

Now that we have these initial metrics in place it is time to move even further back in the process to find other metrics that can help us determine how successful we are in managing the rapid growth of this education business.

The one mistake that can happen in developing metrics in education is to focus too closely on the numbers and not enough on the mission. If you lose sight of the ultimate mission of your group then you lose the inspiration and motivation that comes from having a positive influence on students. You begin to sound more like a used care salesman and less like an evangelist for improved opportunities. When that happens, you most definitely hurt your education business.

You can’t focus on just one. In order to create lasting success in the education world you must balance both mission and metrics.