21st February 2019

“A good day or a bad day”?

I Still Don’t Like Cricket

Last time I wrote about how it is almost impossible to understand a game like cricket without an adequate scoreboard and yet in the great game of business, which is often far more complex, we ask our people to play and never think to give them a sight or understanding of the scoreboard.

If we think for a moment about the amazing following and fervour that sport evokes it is quite incredible. Everywhere you go in the world you will see people wearing their teams’ colours. They will often define themselves by the sport or sports team that they support and by the sport they play.

It is worth considering, for a while, some of the common factors across all sports that help in engaging so many people. They are competitive, you can see a clear winner. The rules are relatively easy to understand and we all think we know the rules. There is a clear finishing line. Most games are short and measurable and we enjoy seeing the action unfold, revealing the victor. We can appreciate the skill and human endeavour.

Now turn and look at the world of business, and your business in particular and ask yourself how many of those prerequisites are in place? Probably very few, and yet they could be. Business is competitive and businesses do conform to a clear set of rules but how often do we, as business leaders, bother to explain the rules to the people playing the game. I wonder how many of your team truly understand what profit is and how it is calculated. Not to mention the difference between gross and net and what return on investment means and why it matters. Important stuff like this isn’t taught at school and my experience is that the majority of folk don’t understand the basics and most businesses do a pretty poor job of correcting that.

In business, we tend to think in terms of months and years and if we ever let people see the score it is often in those increments with the final scores not being revealed until months after the game has ended. The interest in the final score has an extremely short shelf life. If it is not instant it is almost worthless.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We could do all of the things that sports do. We could have instant scores, we could teach people the rules and in doing so we can help people appreciate the skill and human endeavour on display. Were we to do that I wonder how much more engagement and fun might result?

Some consultants will talk about the merits of gamification. I think it is just good old fashioned common sense. As a teenager I used to spend my summer holidays helping on the local farms to bring the harvest in, in the days before it was all done by machines and we used to take great pleasure in keeping the score; how many acres we could harvest today, how many layers we could build on the haystack before lunch, how quickly we could bring it all in, and how much quicker we were than the neighbours farm. Keeping score; keeping track is a natural human trait. Why would we deny it? Why would we not leverage it?

A key question for any business is ‘do your people know whether they have had a good day or a bad day when the day has ended?’. Where there are no metrics, there can be no accountability. Where there are metrics it is really difficult to avoid accountability. How does your business measure up?