KPIs? What About the Early Warning Indicators (EWIs)?

As we countdown to the launch of Lightbulb's 'online live' Painless People Management Programme here is the first of six weekly managing performance blogs to help reinvent or boost what you may already be doing to get the best from your people at's part one of six:

Most of us are familiar with Key Performance Indicators: Metrics that help demonstrate how effectively an organisation is achieving what it needs to. They can often look like this -

  • Number of qualified leads
  • Calls converted into orders
  • Project milestones achieved
  • Gross profit margin
  • Number of support tickets resolved
  • Website traffic hitting target
  • Social media engagement
  • Number of complaints resolved within agreed timelines
  • etc etc

The problem with them though is that they are lagging indicators. We are finding out how well we have done after it has happened. And the problem is often that what we are measuring may have been difficult to achieve in the first place. Which means if the KPI isn't looking good its a lot of effort to turn it green next time! Consider calls converted into orders: if last weeks orders aren't where they need to be then we need to now work twice as harder to make up for the lost week!

Which is where Early Warning Indicators or EWIs come in. Here's some things they have in common:

  • They are the day to day things we see and hear that tell us we are on track (or not!) to achieving the corresponding KPI
  • They are often more 'here and now' measures reported daily or even hourly!
  • They can be focused on behaviour/activities
  • They tell us what we need to do more or less of right now.

For example, if we are measuring complaints or escalated issues as a KPI then an EWI might be the number of client or customer queries not responded to today. Because if we sort that on a daily basis that will go some way to heading off future issues that become complaints.

If I'm looking to increase the number of qualified leads I might want to focus on the earlier, early warning indicator around the number of (potential) client meetings in the calendar for next month, or the number of telephone appointments in the diary for tomorrow or next week.

Or, how about one around understanding if the KPI target of deadlines met is going to be achieved? An EWI might be the number of times colleagues need to be chased for updates. If this number is going up then does this tell you something about bottlenecks/volumes of work being too high etc?

How formally you track EWIs is up to you - but one or two for each KPI that are earlier indications around how something will pan out is a great way to focus people towards more certainty in the results they are aiming for.

So, What are you finding out too late; what are the 'red lights' that keep coming up performance-wise? EWIs could be an answer...!

Module One of the Online Live, Painless People Management Programme starts October 15th 9.30am to 11.30. Check out details here and do get in touch to register a place for new managers and managers/leaders looking for new techniques/approaches to make managing people simple.

Interested in KPIs and EWIs - Take a look at our One Direction solution in our brochure. Strategy and metrics...Reimagined.