Scoreboards: Not Just at Wrigley Field

By Jim Struck, Leadership Vision, LLC

My last column discussed the value of benchmarking and key performance indicators (KPI’s) in helping organizations to execute. In general, I am a big fan of benchmarks and KPI’s because they: sharpen an organization’s understanding of what they want to produce and they can sharpen teams and individual focus. Done well, measures will motivate. High performers like to be measured because it is a way for them to differentiate themselves, and presumably earn more money. We often assume that people don’t like to be held accountable. The truth is that good people want to be held accountable because they want to excel and be part of something that is succeeding. Organizations that don’t measure or don’t measure the right things don’t do well, and can lose their better performers as a result.

What we do with the measures is as important as having them. If we are not aware of what the measures are and what they are telling us they are not valuable. Over the past seven or eight years scorecards, scoreboards, and dashboards have become very popular. Organizations, teams, and individuals have found meaningful and creative ways of displaying their scoreboards.

I am a proponent of anything that is quick, easy to read, tells you almost immediately where all constituencies stand, and is not an excel spreadsheet. We used a color system where blue represented 10% above goal, green represented within 93% of goal, yellow, 75% of goal, and red, below 75%. Where the thresholds for each color are set is based on the organization’s beliefs about performance.

Whatever the system it should be prominently displayed. We found it beneficial to have the departmental scoreboards displayed within the department, but prominent enough that anyone walking through the department could see and understand how the department was doing. Individuals kept their scorecards displayed in their work area. The organizational scoreboard should be somewhere that has high traffic.

The defining of measures and decisions about what the scoreboards should look like can take awhile depending on how experienced your organization is with measures/ scoreboards. It took us six and eight months to get all the measures where we wanted them, and probably a couple of generations of scoreboards before they were simple, readable, and fun. (Hint: let the departments come up with their own scoreboards.)

With some collection systems you can create your own electronic dashboard that has the key indicators at an organization, department, and individual level. That’s more efficient, but I would still recommend the larger displays. They help to create a group and organizational attachment and interest.

Once you have established these measures your conversations will be more focused. “I see that we are in the yellow for the first 15 days of the month. What steps are we going to take to improve the second half?”

We found this particular discussion the hardest. While we had a lot of data about what our historic collections were per day over the prior three years, there were always inconsistencies about when the money came in during the month. Our mentality was that we waited to see where we were on the 20th of the month and then made a huge push through to month end, sometimes sacrificing our current workload in favor of finding dollars, including scouring the clients’ patient account system looking for payments.

It was difficult to get buy-in to a more proactive system that tried to take away some of the “wait and see” attitude in favor of actually making some mid-month changes in work schedules and work strategies. After a year a more proactive approach received good buy-in, but I would comment that there were still a number of people that believed “we’ll pull the rabbit out of the hat” at the end of the month. Old habits die hard.

The process of establishing robust measures and a scoring system that is visible and creative, helps the process of focusing on results and greater accountability fun. It creates a way for everyone to be more focused on their productivity at any given time in the month. It also helps newer employees to have a clearer understanding of the work standards for their job and to focus on what they were hired to do.

The final benefit is that clients believe that you are a more effective agency, creating tools that separate you from the competition. Works for me! Now get out those crayons, glue, cotton, and poster boards and see what fun you can have being more focused on results!