Make Parts Not Charts

Time is a commodity we can’t afford to waste. Leaders are constantly challenged with the task of using time respectfully and productively, especially when it comes to meetings. While meetings are often deemed a necessary evil, it’s an old story that leaders need to ensure they are as productive as possible. A considerable time drain in many leadership meetings is the extensive reporting of metrics. As businesses increasingly rely on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure success, the interaction with these metrics—and by extension, with each other—demands a little more thinking about what a leader does.

The Trust Model

Particularly at the very top of an organization there is a temptation to believe that the more controls you put in place the more control you have. Nothing could be further from the truth. Reporting at the wrong level, or reporting rather than action planning, squanders valuable time—time that no customer is paying for. KPIs are assigned to all teams with the expectation they will serve as a compass, guiding efforts towards achieving both team and organizational goals. Every team at every level needs to know the essential few metrics that report the success of their work processes. At the tops of department of companies there is also a need for a very few higher level / consolidating metrics that summarize the progress of the firm. A model where controls are deployed to the right team is predicated on the belief that teams are best positioned to understand and achieve their KPIs, fostering a culture of autonomy, responsibility, and accountability. There is no better control than a well-informed person. Keep people well informed, give them the freedom and accountability to act.

What Metrics Make it to a Meeting?

The selection and review of metrics demands careful attention, emphasizing their relevance to the objectives of team meetings. Teams are formed with a specific purpose, and metrics should reflect how effectively this purpose is being fulfilled. Reporting metrics to a team that has no control over the outcomes is likely unproductive. When plans and metrics are harmoniously aligned and implemented across departments, leaders can depend on these systems to steer organizational success. With a strong metrics system in place, leaders should adopt a reporting-by-exception approach, concentrating only on significant deviations or emerging trends that could signal future issues. Ideally, meetings would quickly wrap up with affirmations that all metrics and action plans are proceeding as expected, freeing teams to focus on activities that generate value.

Leadership Responsibilities

In this system, what a leader to DO?

  • There needs to be a process by which leaders build solid plans and guiding metrics that are understood and supported by all coordinating teams.
  • Leaders must be fearless in reporting variances, ensuring reports are timely, accurate, and meaningful. This is both on them and on the culture of the organization to keep fear out of the equation.
  • Leaders should be adept at articulating the actions taken and assistance required. This approach not only streamlines communication but also reinforces a culture of transparency and accountability.
  • There needs to be a process to review metrics and actions in the normal chain of accountability.
  • Top leaders must trust.

Addressing Non-Compliance

When processes go unreported and issues unresolved, the problem most likely lies with a person, not with metrics, planning or corrective actions. Such situations should be addressed at an individual level, taking necessary steps to rectify the issue without overhauling the system. This ensures that the focus remains on using metrics effectively, rather than getting bogged down by the inefficiencies of excessive reporting.

In conclusion, rethinking our approach to metrics by fostering a culture of confidence in planning and trust over exhaustive reporting can significantly enhance productivity and focus. By empowering teams with the autonomy to manage their KPIs and streamlining the reporting process, organizations can make better use of their time, focusing on creating value rather than sitting in meetings. This shift not only saves time but also builds a more engaged, accountable, and efficient workforce. Let’s make parts not charts.

About the Author

Paul Doyle
Paul Doyle is the founder of LeaderWork. He brings more than 35 years of diverse business experience, including 15 years as a CEO, leading manufacturing companies. Paul has been active in North America with companies ranging from $20 million to $450 million in revenue.