1. Good leadership is required if programs are to evolve toward successful outcomes.
Good leaders have several characteristics. They are committed to progress and are capable of articulating a vision, entraining strong participants, promoting partnerships, recognizing and enabling progress, and creating institutional and programmatic flexibility. Good leaders facilitate and encourage the success of others. They are vested with authority by their peers and institutions, through title, an ability to control resources, or other recognized mechanisms. Without leadership, programmatic resources and research efforts cannot be directed and then redirected to take advantage of new scientific, technological, or political opportunities. Metrics, no matter how good, will have limited use if resources cannot be directed to promote the program vision and objectives established by the leader.
2. A good strategic plan must precede the development of metrics.
Metrics gauge progress toward achieving a stated goal. Therefore, they are meaningless outside the context of a plan of action. The strategic plan must include the intellectual framework of the program, clear and realizable goals, a sense of priorities, and coherent and practical steps for implementation. The best metrics are designed to assess whether the effort and resources match the plan, whether actions are directed toward accomplishing the objectives of the plan, and whether the focus of effort should be altered because of new discoveries or new information. Metrics, no matter how good, will have limited use if the strategic plan is weak.
3. Good metrics should promote strategic analysis. Demands for higher levels of accuracy and specificity, more frequent reporting, and larger numbers of measures than are needed to improve performance can result in diminishing returns and escalating costs.
Preliminary data or results are often good enough to make strategic decisions; additional effort to make them scientifically rigorous might be wasted. Larger numbers of metrics may also promote inefficiencies. For example, if a substantial amount of signed paperwork is required to demonstrate that the federal Paperwork Reduction Act is working then the metric clearly fails to meet its primary objectives.