What's On Your Scorecard?

People love to keep score. Leaders help people keep score. These two facts both contribute to improved performance. However, improvement is not automatic; a key driver in the process is the scorecard. Today, I want to address the fundamental question every leader and every team has to struggle with: What’s on your scorecard?

On the surface, it seems like a simple question. In reality, it can be one of the most difficult and important questions a leader has to make. An effective scorecard enables a leader and the team to quickly identify critical issues and to monitor the impact of their work.
I often draw the picture above and share the following story to stimulate the conversation regarding what should be on the scorecard…
Suppose you’ve been stranded on a deserted island for 5 years. When they come to rescue you, you ask, “How’s the business (or church, or school, or whatever you’re charged to lead) doing?” The response: “Which 3 numbers do you want?”
That’s all you get – not an annual report, not an Excel spreadsheet, only 3 key numbers. Which ones will you choose? The numbers you choose are your leading contenders to be on your scorecard. Without even realizing it, if you’ve chosen wisely, you’ve identified the primary health indicators for your business/team.
Often when I lead a group through this exercise, there are questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked ones and my responses.
Q: Can we have more than 3 numbers?
A: For the purposes of the exercise no – in reality, sure. Be careful – too many metrics on the scorecard diffuses focus and can negatively impact your results.
Q: What if we really want to track dozens of different performance metrics?
A: That’s great. You can track anything that you believe will enhance your performance; just don’t put them on page one of the scorecard.
Q: Is there a second page?
A: There can be. Think about a major league baseball pitcher. On page one of their scorecard you might find: Wins and Losses; Earned Run Average (ERA) and Innings Pitched. However, on page two, you might find: pitch count, pitch location, pitch selection and even release time to the plate. If you aren’t getting the outcomes you desire, you can often find clues on page two.
Q: Can the scorecard change?
A: Absolutely. I’ve seen many scorecards that are anchored by a few constant metrics; but also contain one or two key numbers that change over time as the needs of the business/team change.
These are just a few of the questions that you and your team can think about. At the end of the conversation, be sure your scorecard embodies the outcomes you desire because… what gets measured gets done.[GLS_Shield]
 
 

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Troy

8 years ago

Great Post (as usual) Mark! I’ve always championed the “what gets measured, gets done” philosophy. I’m a believer in the Big 3: Timeliness, Quality, and Cost. However one caution for Leaders is to be careful what you measure because it can drive behaviors that you don’t want. This is especially true when you’re measuring efficiency in a process.

mark

8 years ago

Troy – thank you! This is a great word. Measurement is a two-edged sword. As you pointed out, you can drive outcomes that you never intended if you’re not extremely careful. As an example, to reward sales only could jeopardize profits and to measure only on-time shipments could be at odds with your quality metrics. What leaders chose to measure is a big deal. Thanks again for adding value to the conversation! Mark

Anne Ackerson

8 years ago

Those 3 key metrics can be a struggle to identify — but well worth the effort when you do. I created a scorecard for my nonprofit organization (which includes more than 3 metrics) and it went through several iterations before I felt I was getting at truly meaningful data. However, I routinely ask myself if what I’m tracking continues to be relevant — this alone keeps me thinking about what constitutes my organization’s overall health. I highly recommend the exercise.

mark

8 years ago

Thanks for the testimonial! I agree it is worth the effort. Leading without a scorecard is like flying a plane without instruments – not impossible, but extremely dangerous. I wish you continued success! Mark

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6 years ago

[…] wrote a post in August, 2012 about how you might determine what key metrics should be included on your team scorecard. Today, I […]

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