Near miss or clear miss?
So you missed your metrics — it’s ok. When you lead a startup, you will miss. No one has ever done what you are doing and you have to…
So you missed your metrics — it’s ok. When you lead a startup, you will miss. No one has ever done what you are doing and you have to expect to wrong. A lot. What matters is that you know if it was a clear miss or a near miss.
Just by clearly stating the metrics that matter and documenting the beliefs you hold about how to move these metrics you are well above average when it comes to scaling your business. There has been a lot written about goal setting and best practices around OKRs — worth reading for sure — but here, I am focused on the time after you do this work, after you establish the metrics and motivate the team to sprint. In this moment, as the data comes back in unexpected ways, knowing what type of miss it is can define success or failure as a CEO.
The first job is to decide if the data shows a near miss (i.e goal signups for the month was 15,000 and you hit 14,473) or a clear miss (i.e. goal signups for the month was 15,000 and you hit 54,473). Second, you need to decide if the underlying driver of the miss was something in your control (i.e. the optimized sign up flow shipped late — but once it was live it had the impact you expected) or out of your control (i.e. your primary competitor had a massive security breach and most of the new signups were driven by organic searches for alternatives). Last, you need to evaluate how this data impacts your strategy going forward by deciding if the primary driver of the miss is persistent with repeatable impact or temporary with one-off impact.
As you prepare to meet with your team, you can frame the conversation with these questions:
Were the assumptions about how to move the metric wrong?
Was your quality of execution unexpected?
Was something out of your control the primary driver of the miss?
And try to place the miss into this 2x2:
From this, the next steps for you and team might generally look like this:
Near miss, inside your control — Focus on execution.
Clear miss, inside your control — You may have found Minimum Viable Failure.
Near miss, outside your control — if temporary, carry on. If persistent, adjust the goal to account for this variability in forecasting.
Clear miss, outside your control — if temporary, asses the damage and re-group. If persistent, you likely need to rethink the metric to avoid the fools errand of evaluating your success against an outcome that you do not control.
Overall, focusing on the miss is a mistake — spending the time to understand the miss and deciding how to move forward is all that matters.