For years, organizations have relied heavily on key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success or failure of their initiatives. KPIs provide a quantifiable way to track progress toward specific targets like sales, costs, customer acquisition, etc. However, an overemphasis on hitting arbitrary KPI numbers can actually distract teams from the outcomes that truly matter.

KPIs often measure outputs rather than outcomes. For example, an ecommerce company might track new customer sign-ups as a KPI. But simply acquiring more new customers is an output – it doesn’t necessarily translate into better business outcomes like higher revenue or customer loyalty. A new customer who churns after the first purchase isn’t really driving value.

Similarly, a software company might track new features shipped as a KPI. But piling on more features doesn’t guarantee those features are useful or driving better user experiences. A cluttered, bloated product could actually hurt user adoption.

Fixating on KPI numbers can lead teams to lose sight of the big picture and unintentionally optimize for the wrong things. It creates incentives for hitting specific targets rather than making smart choices to maximize impact.

So instead of just tracking KPIs, teams need to be laser-focused on moving the needle for key business outcomes. What are the high-level goals that really matter – revenue growth, customer satisfaction, operational efficiency? KPIs should be viewed as secondary signals that may or may not correlate well with those critical outcomes.

This requires taking a step back to evaluate whether current KPIs are serving as accurate proxies for strategic outcomes. Reframe goals around tangible finalities like boosting customer lifetime value or reducing operational costs. Then redesign metrics to directly measure progress toward those outcomes over time.

Leading indicators that are highly predictive of eventual outcomes should take priority over output-based KPIs that are easy to measure but fail to generate meaningful results. It takes more work, but mapping KPIs to key business outcomes ultimately drives smarter decision-making and better ROI.