Monday, November 23, 2009

KPIs, Metrics and Stumbling over Little Things

     In a world of balance scorecards, KPIs, BIs and all the other alphabet soup letters circling like sharks around measurements and performance, I was truly surprised when we tripped over a very simple question. The meeting was on visual display boards to be posted in the plant, departments and at the lines. The boards would display measurements of their performance. Emphatic and sincere concerns were expressed that the shop floor people were not given good communication about what was happening in the plant and how they were doing. They needed more information. I, the keeper of the corporate holy grail (aka metrics) listened and provided the information they requested. I was persistent in squeezing in one question among the answers – “What behaviors are we trying to create?” Each attempt was met with yet another metric.
     At last I went southern on them and allowed my natural drawl to possess my voice. One question was asked. One answer was given. Luckily I had not taken a sip of coffee or it may have gotten messy. I repeated the question – same answer. I looked at them and could feel tears in my eyes at their absolute innocence. “Ok. You’re telling me we have standard operating procedures for only thirty percent of our work and not everyone has been trained on the thirty percent.” Heads nodded. Sorry Captain Kirk, I couldn’t keep the ship together any longer and I had to laugh. “Well,” I managed to regain my composure, “I may not be a statistician like the Black Belts here but in the south our math would say if people do not know what they are supposed to do and you have high costs by gosh there must be some sort of correlation.” Epiphany!
     I left the meeting still giggling to myself. I was not laughing at them, ok I was chuckling I admit. My laughter was at me, us, the world. How easy it is to forget the little things. We get so busy looking for the big “IT” or “That” or “The” that we don’t even see the obvious right in front of us. We do not allow ourselves or give to others the patience to learn, grow and develop. We look for a return on our investment but forget to make the deposit. In the south we would say “that dog can’t hunt. "