22nd October 2015

Compelling Scoreboard 1

Jayne started a new job. It was the first time she had ever taken what might be called a management job. She was in charge of a small team of people and she was nervous; nervous for a number of reasons. It was a new job, in a new organisation doing things that she had never done before, however her over-riding first impressions were not good. She came home saying that it was horrible. The team were late on a morning, slow to get started, took longer than they should have for lunch and often had stopped working long before the official time to go home.

This was some time before I became a business coach but I had been managing businesses for a long time and it seemed to me that the team were not engaged or at least were not engaged enough and so I asked what has now become a gold standard of questions, “Tell me when the team go home on a night do they know whether they have had a good day, or a bad day?”. The answer I got has become a very common response, “well they know if they have been busy” . “That wasn’t the question I asked” I said, and repeated “Do they know if they have had a good day or a bad day?”. The conclusion was that they did not and that was largely because no one had ever given them a way to judge whether they had had a good day or not.

After much discussion we decided that actually this was really a very easy business to measure. Each day customers would call wanting supply of the product and each day a quantity of the product would be supplied. We were lucky, very few organisations are so simple in their construct but the principle always applies. I then wrote the world’s simplest spreadsheet that produced the world’s simplest bar chart with one column representing the calls and another representing the number of products shipped. The compelling scoreboard was about to be born for this particular organisation.

Then we had a rare moment of genius and when Jayne said “OK so I measure these two things every day, put them into the spreadsheet, produce the graph, tell the team what it is all about and pin it up” something made me say “No, just produce the graph and put it up on the noticeboard and wait and see what happens”.
The response was “There is no noticeboard.” Now that will tell you something, however there was a pillar and so we decided to stick the graph to that at the end of the next day and wait and see what happened.

You can imagine what happened next. There were a number of whispered conversations.“What’s this?”“I don’t know. That new manager Jayne must have stuck it up?”“What is it about?”“I don’t know, she must be mad”Of course by mid morning human nature had taken its natural course and curiosity had gotten the better of the team and someone asked, “Hey Jayne what’s this graph all about?”, Jayne replied “It is something Ian suggested. This bar is the number of customers who rang in with an enquiry and the other bar is the number of products that we shipped.” And she left the team staring at the graph. The next day the graph went up again and when the team saw it, one said to another “you see I told you we were busy”.

Within two or three days people were beginning to wait expectantly to see the scores of the previous day and after about a week one of them made the comment, “surely there is something important about the relative sizes of the two columns” to which another replied “yes, the gap represents all of those people who enquired but to whom we didn’t ship. So that must mean that the bigger the gap the less customers we have satisfied”.
The scoreboard had become compelling. The team had quite naturally and quite voluntarily taken ownership of their performance through the scoreboard which was in full sight of everyone. The power of curiosity had enabled this to happen and people’s natural desire to see, to know and to own the score had taken over.

When that particular organisation won an award for excellence Jayne attributed a lot of the success to “The Graphs”. Every day the team went home knowing whether they had had a good day or a bad day and with ownership for the results and so the business grew. As a consequence people were more engaged, more involved, more conscious and concerned about the results and happier in their work because it was easy to tie the results in to their purpose.

The compelling power of scoreboards relies on two key principles; visibility and ownership.The most important of these is ownership. If these are ‘the boss’s numbers, then the team don’t own them and they may get completed but it will be with a sense of begrudging compliance. If the team own them they will have a different significance altogether.The more visible the scoreboard is the better. Scoreboards on a computer spread sheet may be neater, prettier, and more complex than a handwritten whiteboard but they will never be as powerful. Whiteboards are in your face, you can’t avoid them, no matter how much you may want to and best of all, if the team pick up the pen and fill them in themselves, they end up owning the scores.

This is one of the most powerful tools you can employ in any business.