If you’ve spent any time at a sports game, you will know that sometimes the score will not necessarily reflect the state of the game. I remember a football game (soccer to all American friends) where I stood on the sidelines and my team were 1:0 down with only a few minutes to go. Watching the score, I was pushing the manager to make a change but he said to me, “Just wait.” Within five minutes, the score was suddenly 2:1 in our team’s favour.
What the manager was watching was the game, not just the scoreboard. He knew the score was 1:0 but he also saw the play of the game was shifting to our side. He could see that if he made a change in the team players, they may lose momentum and miss an opportunity. He was right and I have not forgotten that object lesson: Watch both the game and the scoreboard before acting.
Managing a team or running a company also gives us an opportunity to look at both components. Of course, we must watch the scoreboard (The statistics, the sales, the measures etc) but we must also be watching what is happening (the trends, the mood, the environment, etc). Just because the results aren’t happening as fast as we want, if we can see that an extra effort has just been put in, the results may be just around the corner.
Conversely, if we see that the results are terrific but don’t notice that one of our top performers is suddenly not there anymore, it’s likely that the results won’t stay at the same level and we may need to act now. If you are watching only one of these components, you only have half the picture. It’s a little like a swimmer and his coach. The swimmer experiences what it’s like in the water and the coach can see the technique and progress. Neither have a full view but together they can complete the picture.
Many years ago a colleague told me of an experience he had with his manager. He said that one month he was given a great accolade for being the top salesman in the group. The next month he was ‘bawled out’ for having poor figures and yet he had done exactly the same thing both months. He had worked just as hard the second month as the first. The nature of his role wasn’t a hard closer of business but visiting the stockists of the products and offering support. His manager purely looked at the results and not at what was happening ‘in the game’.
A practical approach
So, what should you do? Well, consider firstly what are the equivalents in your organisation or team to ‘The Scoreboard’ and ‘The Game’. You may have some of the items on these lists:
Sales Effort from staff
Production Adapting to change
Customer feedback Improvement in attitude
Statistical records Working relationships
Observation and discussion within the workplace are great ways to actually know what’s happening in the game. A number of leaders have adopted the philosophy of ‘Managing by walking about’ which is a great way to identify what is actually happening in the workplace, the mood of the staff etc. This philosophy was popularized by Sir Christopher Gent in the 1990’s in the UK as he headed up Vodafone and cited it as one of the best ways to lead. When considering ‘your scoreboard’ ensure that the measures are useful, meaningful and easy to gather. In today’s world we can measure just about everything. It doesn’t mean we should. Measure what counts and watch how your team are getting there.