Why do we use objectives before measures? Because it makes it easier to refine and revise measures.
What happens is we have measures but no objectives?
In the absence of objectives, people designing performance management systems often compensate for problems with measures by adding more measures in the hope that they are communicating and covering all the aspects. This unfortunately leads to overload, confusion and unnecessary detail. This creates measure mania.
“Objectives before measures” provides a frame for the measures
In contrast, objectives set direction: this is what we want to achieve. By defining the objectives and its characteristics first, you have a basis for choosing measures of that objective. You can then ask, “What should we measure for this objective” and then, “What is the best way to measure this?”
This approach makes measure design far easier and more systematic. It means that when looking at the measures of an objective you can always check to see how complete a picture they provide of the objective and its characteristics. We can tell how well they inform progress against the objective. We can tell how well they cover all the characteristics of the objective. We can tell if they are true fair measures of an objective, or a surrogate used to get a feel for the situation in the absence of better information.
“Objectives before measures”, makes refining measures far simpler. The objective is the point of reference
A significant benefit of this comes when you find that a measure of the objective is not fit for purpose or not functioning well. When you have an objective, and its characteristics, you have a point of reference against which to choose a better measure. You can eliminate the less effective measures and bring in new ones. It also means that when a new measure is introduced, people can see why the new measure is better than the old one because they have the objective as a point of reference.