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Smooth Sailing in Rough Waters: Use KPIs to Throw a Lifeline

By Chris Cosper

    Thu, Jul 23, 2015 @ 09:00 AM KPIs & Dashboards, Accountable Leaders & Teams

    Isn’t it funny how quickly our workload can change? One day we’re doing fine, managing our daily tasks, Employee_Health_KPImaking progress on our priorities and feeling connected to our teammates. Then the next thing you know, a project goes off track, a client has a problem, or a teammate is out sick, and all of the sudden we’re behind, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Maybe it was just a bad day and tomorrow we’ll be back on track, or maybe it’s the first in a series of days that has the potential to wear us down, increasing our chances of making mistakes and significantly effecting our outlook and energy.

    It happens to everyone at some point. In fact, it’s probably happening to someone on your team right now. The question is not whether it will happen. The question is who is it happening to and how can you help. Someone needs a lifeline - a rope typically thrown to rescue someone experiencing difficulties in the water - and someone on your team probably has one. You just need a way to match these two up.  

    Here’s an idea that has been working for us, and maybe it will work for you, too. We created a set of KPIs on our team’s Weekly Adjustment Meeting Dashboard for every individual on our team called Employee Health. Each week, every member of our team has a chance to reflect on their workload and how they’re feeling about it. We’ve established Red-Yellow-Green success criteria for this KPI that is consistent for each person.

    Green = feeling balanced.  This our goal. We all have very busy schedules, multiple responsibilities and high expectations for ourselves and each other. The goal is not to be ahead, or even caught up… just feeling somewhat balanced. Even though we may have had a day or two of feeling behind or overwhelmed, overall, we feel like everything is under control and we’re on track. 
    Yellow = feeling full This does not necessarily mean we’ve got a problem or that we’re in trouble, just that we’re in a period of time where our schedule is tight, our plate is extra full, and if something unexpected happens, we may need some help. While stating Yellow is not unusual and certainly not a sign of weakness, we’re all very careful not to overuse it. We take our Yellows very seriously, and whenever we see this status in our Weekly Meeting, we pause to find out what’s going on and if there’s anything we can do to help out.
    Red = feeling overwhelmed.  This is one way for members of our team to ask for help. The Red status on this KPI is rare, so you better believe we jump into action when we see it. Sometimes this status reflects a personal situation that causes someone to be out unexpectedly, or an unplanned project that is urgently assigned. Whatever the cause, we will stay here until we develop a plan to overcome the issue. All hands are on deck when we have a Red, and it’s great to see the team pull together to help out.
    SuperGreen = bring it on.  This status is also rare, but a real gift when we see it. This status indicates that an individual is feeling like they’re on top of their game and has the bandwidth to help others out or take on a new project.  

    As a team leader, it’s great to have a visual indication of how everyone on my team is doing. I never want to see anyone statusing Red more than two weeks in a row. And if I see a pattern of Yellows occurring over time with anyone, I know to look deeper to see if their responsibilities or projects have experienced scope creep. 

    As an individual on the team, it’s great to have this mechanism in place that causes me to reflect on how I’m feeling every week. Without it, I can imagine that it might be easy to trudge along week after week, living in the Yellow and Red area, not realizing I was in danger of burning out until it was too late. And many times, when I pause to status Green, I’m reminded just how much I enjoy my work and how energized I am by the fast pace and high expectations.

    As a member of the team, it’s so reassuring to see the team jump into action to help out when someone needs a lifeline. I think the willingness to status Yellow or Red and the positive reaction of the team when it happens are signs of a very healthy, high performing team.

    So, how is your team doing? Does anyone need a lifeline?Tweet: How is your team doing? Does anyone need a lifeline? @RhythmSystems http://bit.ly/1IeSLeH

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