21 June 2016
Measuring performance is important. It doesn't matter whether you are measuring it at individual, team or organisation levels or pieces of equipment or infrastructure, you need to know how well things are working, blogs John Bowen.
But it isn't enough just to know how well, or not, things are performing because if you don't know why then it limits your ability to solve things quickly. You might make the right changes by accident first try, but such flukes are rare and in most cases you will have to try a range of things before you work out what is best to do.
This, perhaps, helps to explain the mania for vast swathes of KPIs, but it becomes nonsense and detracts from your own performance in doing what you are really good at. If you doubt this, ask Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton, if you don't know, is a top racing driver. He has won the Formula One World Championship three times and is regarded as one of the best in the current generation of drivers. Recently he was racing in Baku, Azerbaijan, and was having problems with the settings in his car.
Now a modern racing car has a steering wheel that costs a small fortune and does more than just point the car in the desired direction; it is a computer terminal and has a numbers of switches, dials, warning lights and a display screen. The driver can make changes to a number of aspects of the car's performance as they drive and they routinely do so throughout a race.
Just driving the car takes enormous skill and there is not a lot of time to be playing with your settings as you try and stay of the track. Any straight piece of circuit is the best place to take your eyes off the road, but on the main straight Lewis was doing around 230 mph at that point. There are limits as to what is possible.
In terms of KPIs, Lewis had too much to go through to be able to solve an issue with his car. Until recently, his team could have told him over the radio what he needed to do to change settings, but that is no longer allowed. With around 200 options to check, he could not do that and be able to race at his normal levels.
And this is the problem that so many managers inflict on themselves every working day. They have so much data that they can't process it all and still have the time to do their day job.
Measure performance by all means; you have to, but automate as much as you can so that you don't turn it into an industry. Your job is to lead your team to deliver results, not sit in the corner sweating over a spreadsheet.
John Bowen is an FM consultant