4 Tips to Use Dashboards Well for Stronger Execution

By Patrick Thean

Tip 1: Focus on the problem, not the people.

When Dutch Valley Food Distributors first used Red-Yellow-Green in their Weekly Team Meetings, it seemed natural to ask a team member “Hey, why are you Red this week? How can we help get you back to Green?” They were inadvertently shining the spotlight on the person instead of on the problem that needed to be solved. Because their culture is one of caring and sharing, this felt very uncomfortable for them. When I sat in on a weekly meeting, I noticed this subtlety. We shifted their questions from “Hey, why are you Red?” to “Why is this priority Red? What can we do to move this priority from Red to Green?” This line of questioning unfroze their brains. It helped people relax and focus on solving problems. As Dutch Valley shifted their focus from the person to the priority, they have found their Weekly Adjustment Meetings to be much more productive and engaging, leading to stronger results for the company. 

Tip 2: Give everyone a "Get out of Jail Free card" to encourage your team to surface the problems faster.

When we first used our dashboards at Metasys (my first company many years ago), the team did not react positively to the process. They were worried that failures would be highlighted andRhythm Systems KPI Dashboard it would be personally embarrassing. This is natural. This response comes from self-preservation. The team’s fear and worry will either dissolve or intensify based on your behavior when the dashboards show Red. Will you see Red, too? Or, will you embrace the opportunity to manage a Red priority back to Green? At Metasys, to help dissolve fear, I gave everyone a get out of jail free card. In other words, I wanted us to not worry about personal consequences and focus on solving problems, not punishing people. I have found the get out of jail free card to be a good way to build this habit of self-accountability in a non-threatening way. 

Tip 3: Be accountable to Actions agreed upon.

Don't fall into the trap of the ever-reds.  What's an "ever-red"? It's a priority that once statused Red, continues to be red week after week with no actions being taken.  The status is not as important as the action that needs to be taken. A Red status is your catalyst to stop and discuss corrective actions. Then, hold each other accountable to taking Action.  A client recently shared with me that they were not able to make true progress, as week after week, a priority was statused Red. "What actions did you agree on to take corrective action?" I asked. He could not tell me. You must do the hard work of coming up with a corrective action plan and then holding the person accountable to doing the work. Otherwise, you will remain in purgatory with the ever-red priority and fail to achieve your plan for the quarter. Take action. And be accountable to report on the progress of your corrective actions.

Tip 4: Look for bright spots.

A bright spot is something that worked well and can be duplicated or scaled across the company. Bright spots are few and difficult to come by. And when they do, they bring immense value. Unfortunately, most of us are not looking out for them, so we pass them by. We are not trained to spot these. Instead, we have been taught to notice and solve problems. Yes - solving problems is good, so keep doing that. So, how can we spot these bright spots if we are not great at looking out for them? Do we just ask our teams to look harder? And what does "looking harder" mean?

Our clients use Rhythm, our Business Management System, to spot bright spots. We use Red-Yellow-Green success criteria. Where applicable, we define a stretch goal and we call it SuperGreen. Then on a weekly basis, during the 13-Week Race, we look for priorities with a SuperGreen status. The SuperGreen status alerts us to stop and ask questions to see if we have discovered a bright spot that can be scaled. Not all SuperGreens are bright spots. And using this process, our clients have discovered bright spots that have given them tremendous value.

What about you? Do you have a systematic process to spot and scale bright spots? Please share your thoughts and experiences here as well.  Thanks for reading my blog.

Learn to build focus, alignment and accountability; read Execute Without Drama by Patrick Thean

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Patrick Thean


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