A leadership style focusing on strict KPIs can undermine intra-company cooperation

Business culture should emphasize autonomy to empower people.

Brussels, June 23, 2014 – Managers feel under considerable pressure from imposed KPIs. They deem it possible that a leadership style empowering the employees with a high degree of autonomy could help to lower this pressure. Steering using the 80/20 principle works best to align employee engagement with company success. These are major findings of an online discussion between 25 managers of big European companies invited by the Belgian method-based consultancy Synthetron N.V.

 The discussion took place on a secure Internet platform. The participants shared and evaluated 343 ideas altogether, anonymously and in writing.

The messages that were evaluated positively conveyed the following points:

  • Managers feel pressure as an immediate consequence of imposed KPIs. ¾ of them do not agree with the way KPIs are currently used.
  • Many KPIs can result in a culture of just trying to avoid mistakes. The more KPIs are used, the more they indicate a less productive and authoritarian leadership style.
  • Top management changing goals often is insufficient reason for daily pressure of all staff.
  • Too many and too detailed KPIs and those leading to poorly thought through procedures strain cooperation within the company.
  • The participants suggest that the management concentrate on key KPIs. Executives should pay more attention to listening, delegating and communicating strategic context.
  • Most favour smarter processes in day-to-day business, not than a substantial turning away from KPIs in general.
  • If a company decided to renounce KPIs altogether, they would need to be able to articulate their vision completely and also to build on the engagement of employees acting with their own autonomy.
  • Further questions about leadership culture and about the degree of accuracy of KPIs do not show a uniform opinion.

By Michael Erben & Jeanette Kalthof