Measuring Strategic Design Performance

a KPI for the fuzzy front end

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This thesis describes my Master graduation project in which I attempt to design a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for Strategic Designers, to enable us to justify and explain our efforts in a quantitatively oriented context, such as a corporate setting.
In the end, this project provides multiple novel perspectives to knowledge about Strategic Design, and a concept for a Strategic Design KPI for the fuzzy front end.

This project was based on the premiss that Strategic Design has proven to be valuable and relevant for innovation – for which there is no shortage of demand, but that Strategic Designers often struggle to justify/explain their added value.
Research suggests that more emphasis on applying KPIs or metrics is a way to address this issue, but there are currently no suitable metrics for Strategic Design.
The lack of a suitable Strategic Design KPI is explained by the core characteristics of Strategic Design, and those of their typical work. The most predominant of these characteristics is the high uncertainty that Strategic Designers deal with; no clear goals, or means of achieving them.
This is most applicable to the fuzzy front end; the earliest stage of an innovation project, where nothing is clear or known, questions are open ended, and results are not predetermined.
In order to measure performance in highly uncertain projects, process-based metrics were identified as the most suitable option; metrics based on the process, but not limited to only productivity.

A concept was designed for a KPI for Strategic Design performance, based on the findings of a qualitative study. The KPI can be mostly integrated into a normal Strategic Design process. The KPI consists of the following elements:
1 - Fuzzy Front End Commitment Score; summarising overall Strategic Design performance in the fuzzy front end.
2 - Content Quality Score; indicating the quality of content development.
This is based on 2 sub-scores;
- Information Comprehensiveness Score; indicating the quality of diverging activities.
- Logical Coherence Ratio; indicating the quality of converging activities.
3 Total Support Level; indicating the quality of stakeholder management.
This is based on 2 sub-scores;
- Managerial Support Level; indicating the level of support from managerial stakeholders, and their perception of the strategic fit of the result.
- Internal Support Level; indicating the level of support from internal stakeholders, and their perception of the continuity of the result.
4 Level of Discrepancy; a benchmark to indicate potential problems for interpreting the KPI. If there is a large difference between the Content Quality Score and the Total Support Level, it is recommendable to evaluate the following:
- Understandability; indicating the extent to which the Strategic Designer is able to sufficiently convey the content.
- Innovation culture; indicating the organisation’s ability to change/innovate, which determines the potential scope of the result.

In the end, the KPI is at a conceptual stage, so more development before implementation is recommended. The novel perspective to Strategic Design performance does open new academic, and practical possibilities for testing, and evaluating the impact of Strategic Design.