Lead vs Lag Measures

“Make there be fewer tickets unsolved in the queue and speed up the response times!”.

In my career, those words have caused the most amount of stress. It happens when someone looks at the ticket system without context. I start to think about all the work I have put in. The thought that comes to mind is “… that’s not good enough!?”.

Recently I read The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX). It has given me a new perspective on ways to handle this type of situation.

While both of items mentioned would be great goals to achieve there are 2 questions:

  • Does it fit into the current goals of the support department?
  • If so, how do we achieve these goals?

The idea of saying “We need faster ticket response times” or “There should be less open/pending tickets” are Lag Measures.

To achieve goals we need to focus on a wildly important goal (WIG). If you have 15 goals you’ll lose focus and accomplish none. Identifying Lead Measures is the best way to achieve your WIG.

To Define:

Lag Measures are historical measures of some sort of performance. They’re easy to measure, but hard to influence.

Lead Measures are the highest leverage actions or activities that can accomplish goals.

Using Lag Measures without Lead Measures is dangerous. They only measure a result towards your goal. While Lead Measures can influence the chance of success in achieving your goal. In some cases, they can even be predictive of success.

An Example:

You might say “I want to lose 2 pounds this month!”. To do this let’s apply the principles of 4DX.

The 2 pounds is the Lag Measure, a way to measure if you’re successful or not at the end of the month. To actually achieve the weight loss you would apply Lead Measures. That could be cutting out 200 calories a day and working out 5 times a week.

It’s also good to keep yourself accountable. Keep score of when you go to the gym and eat less. On a weekly basis, weigh yourself to review progress.

By focusing on the Lead Measures it sets us up for success. We know going to the gym and eating less helps us lose weight. They’re the high leverage activities.

Applying this thinking to Support:

The goal: “In the next 6 months improve the first response times to our customers”.

To achieve this goal you could take an indirect route by using Lead Measures. Leave the whirlwind of customer support and creating proactive customer success content.

Think of the highest leverage activity your support team can do to achieve your goals. In this case, it might be to build out the best possible customer help site. It would answer customer questions before they have to contact support. Thus lowering case volume, and allowing your support team to have faster response times.

Now that you’ve identified what you’re going to be doing the next checkpoints would be:

  • Analyze the past X months of tickets and identify help docs to create.
  • Take employees off of support and have them focus on customer success by creating the help docs. This could raise response times. Keep in mind it’s about achieving your goals through high leverage activities.
  • Meet on a weekly basis to see how progress is going, keep score of how many docs you created.

After 6 months of Lead Measure work, take a look at Lag Measures. Ask “Are response times quicker?”. By focusing on the high leverage activities there’s a great chance they will be.


The idea behind these thoughts come from The 4 Disciplines of Execution. If you’re not achieving your goals I recommend checking it out.