Don’t fly without instruments
To paraphrase Peter Drucker, you cannot manage what you don’t measure. Just like driving a car without a speedometer or flying a plane without instruments, managing a company without data to monitor performance is asking for trouble.
Depending on the personality of the manager and the culture of the company, it may be tempting to rely on too much data or the wrong performance indicators. We have met with senior managers who spend a significant amount of time analyzing reams of data. It is typically ineffective for a senior manager of a major corporation to spend hours or even days at a time with their head in data.
Less is more
It is important to identify the “critical few” metrics that go the furthest towards assessing performance within your organization. The oft-quoted Pareto principle is a good heuristic for identifying the right set of metrics. Look for a summary of the ~20% of your data that will help you quickly understand ~80% of your performance. The ideal set of metrics will provide an efficient window into critical issues such as safety, operations, human performance and financial performance. The appropriate metrics will vary between departments and positions, and sometimes will be stipulated by regulation or upper management. However, obtaining these metrics typically requires ongoing effort and coordination.
How good are you, really?
The usefulness of data without context is limited. Therefore, it is important to look to the outside to validate your position. While the experience and expertise of your own professional staff can certainly provide the context on a given data set, it still can be helpful to get an external perspective when feasible.
Streamline performance monitoring
While certain types of software may have eased some of these burdens some degree of oversight is still required. But due to human nature, things that are not the ultimate responsibility of a single individual tend to fall through the cracks. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that any key data or metrics have established owners to maintain and oversee them. This will help ensure that reporting occurs, and that data quality is maintained. A single owner can also help streamline the process, and even help promote beneficial activities such as external bench-marking.
Make data collection efficient
The modern corporation has become so reliant on data that it is easy to forget that collecting data is not the actual purpose of most jobs. Ideally the data collection process will arise out of the natural duties of a given position or department. But it doesn’t always feel this way to operators or maintenance techs who appear to be “bogged down” in paperwork. In those situations it can feel like the reporting is intended to be the work, rather than reflect the work that has been performed. It is important to remember why you are collecting the data in the first place, and plan accordingly. An efficient data collection process, paired with the right reporting metrics, can provide you with a foundation for promoting growth and efficiency.