Day 28 of our 30-Day Micro Leadership Course. Let’s continue our conversation about keeping score, measurements.
About 15 years ago I decided to get more intentional about my physical health and fitness so I signed up at a gym. From the get-go I went five days a week for about 45 minutes to an hour. At first, I didn’t really track anything. I mostly just wanted to develop the new habit of going regularly and I focused on cardio. I’d see guys hitting the weight machines and free weights, many of them keeping notes. They were writing down how many repetitions and how much weight they did on any given date. I got acquainted with a few of them and would watch them increase the weights. Sometimes they’d increase the weight and the number of repetitions. I started to do the same thing except I’d keep the numbers in my head. Admittedly, I wasn’t using as many machines or as many free weights so tracking my numbers wasn’t a big challenge. But I was well on my well to better understand my strength levels once I began to track the numbers.
The same thing applies to your enterprise. You can think you’re excellent – as I could have easily thought of myself as being fit and strong – but the numbers don’t lie. And they display our progress or lack of.
High-performance organizations accurately measure their important numbers. These numbers become the scorecard for everybody in the organization. People enjoy tracking it and grow increasingly competitive to pursue improving the numbers. Nobody sees such tracking as punitive. Instead, it’s rewarding – like seeing the pins you knock down when you’re bowling. In 2012 research published in Personnel Psychology reported that high-performing employees are 400% more productive than the average. Plenty of other research bears out that enterprises who undertake some systematic process of high-performance (think Lean, Six Sigma, or a variety of the many other options) realize an improvement between 25-40%. Merely picking a horse to ride, and committing to it results in significant growth and improvement.
Far too many organizations approach their daily work in a willy-nilly fashion. Going through the motions, putting one foot in front of the other without strategic purpose or intent isn’t the way high-performing enterprises operate. Avoid joining or remaining among the ranks of the average or below-average organizations. It’s time to soar, but first, you must know where you are so you can better determine where you’d like to go.
When I started 30 minutes on a treadmill at brisk speed (setting the machine on 2.8-3) would wind me. Within a month I was able to increase it to 3.8-4 and maintain that for an hour. I was committed to walking at a fast pace, not running. I was (and still am) too old to develop knee problems resulting from running. By measuring the time and the speed, I was able to set my sites on improving. My goals were constantly moving forward because I wanted evidence that my fitness was improving. I didn’t want to just feel like I was getting better. I wanted to know. For sure.
So it goes at work. Everybody feels like they’re doing pretty well. Some, perhaps most, will claim, “We’re doing our best.” The reality is few have a clear idea of what their best might even be. Watch any video or documentary about military training, like the SEALS, and you’ll quickly realize these candidates mostly didn’t think they could push themselves to the point required to qualify for achieving entry to such a prestigious group. Those who don’t make it likely have the physical skills required, but they lack the mental toughness to go beyond whatever limits exist in their own mind. They quit believing they’ve done their best and it’s just not good enough.
Can you identify the top key measurements that might be vital in the success of your organization? How many can you list?
Is there any current documentation of these measurements? If so, how are the numbers shared in your organization and how do people respond to them?
Before we end today’s session let me challenge you to avoid falling into your industry trap of just looking at whatever measurements everybody else in your space looks at. I’m not urging you to not measure those same things, but I would challenge you to consider measuring things others aren’t looking at – things that might have a meaningful impact, but are largely being ignored by others in your space.
For example, many years ago I began to look at a number that seemed obvious to me, but I didn’t hear anybody in our industry talk that much about it. At the time, I was increasing my fanatism with inventory management. Vendor returns – aka “defectives – were problematic because we’d buy merchandise, pay for it, then be stuck with some portion of our purchases that were unsellable. We’d have to then negotiate with the vendor to have the merchandise returned. More lost time with unsellable and paid-for inventory. I decided to more carefully track this and use it in meetings and negotiations with vendors. I was also able to negotiate better terms and conditions so the vendor would more quickly help us return the defective merchandise (another part of the tracking was how many days it took the vendor to take the merchandise back and issue us credit). Such things had a big impact on my internal vendor scores and I wanted vendors to pursue a higher score by making it easier for us to return defective merchandise AND to get the offsetting credit to our account.
Do you have anything like that? Something that will make a difference, but you’ve not yet thought to measure it?
Tomorrow we’ll continue down this same path because great leadership is evidence-based. You want to have proof of how well you’re doing.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!