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Finding the Sweet Spot: How Many Indicators Do You Really Need?

Here is a question I get asked a lot "Ann, how many indicators are "enough" ?

The fear is that if there are too few indicators, the poject is not being monitored adequately and if there are too many indicators, well, that is just overwhelming having to collect data and report on all those indicators.

So what's the answer?

It's Not About the Quantity, It's the Quality

First off, let's bust a myth: more indicators don't mean better monitoring. Think of it as attending a concert where every musician plays a different song simultaneously. Chaos, right? What you want is a symphony, where every note contributes to a harmonious outcome. Each indicator should be like a musician in your orchestra, carefully selected to play a part in achieving your project's objectives.

The Rule of Thumb: Keep It S.M.A.R.T.

A good starting point is ensuring your indicators are S.M.A.R.T.—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. But even with S.M.A.R.T. indicators, you can have too many. Imagine you're juggling. Each indicator is a ball you need to keep in the air. Start with three balls (indicators) and see how well you juggle. If it feels too easy and you're not getting the full picture, maybe add one more. But if you're dropping balls left and right, it's time to scale back.

Image gives tips on how to determine how many indicators to have

The Takeaway

Remember, the goal is not to monitor everything but to monitor the right things. It's about striking that perfect chord where your project sings. So, as you plan your next intervention, think carefully about your indicators. Make sure each one is a note in the beautiful melody of your project's success, contributing to a performance that's both impactful and harmonious.


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​​​Ann-Murray Brown

Monitoring, Evaluation and
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