Do you know if your business is winning or losing?

The grand-finals are on this weekend! Can you imagine watching the game without a scoreboard? You watch the entire match at the edge of your seat, with your mates, a beer in your hand, waiting for the referee to blow the full-time whistle and everyone asks “who won?” Seems absurd right? The same is true when it comes to tracking business performance with visual scoreboards. However, many businesses seem to operate without one, relying only on the month-end results to inform if the business is winning or losing!

“You wouldn’t watch a game without a scoreboard, right?  Yet, businesses operate without one, not knowing if it is winning or losing until the month-end financial report”

So what are the benefits of having a visual scoreboard?

  • Provides the right focus – as the saying goes, what gets measured, gets done. With the right metrics displayed correctly, the entire team will know the baseline expectations of the business. It also provides an opportunity to celebrate team successes at regular intervals.
  • Drives team engagement – if the boards are just up on the wall, then it is one way communication. It is certainly better than not having one at all. However, teams are more engaged with a daily ritual around these boards, discussing continually if the business is winning or losing. Generally these are 15-20min standing only meeting where results are discussed by exception. The discussion should focus more about what needs to happen moving forward to improve performance.
  • Opportunity to act before it is too late – if you only review the results at the end of the month, then it is too late change anything – like driving forward looking at the rear-view mirror. The scoreboard should display trends and if it is heading in the wrong direction, then you have a chance to correct it before it is too late. This forms the basis for structured problem solving. Specific actions need to be captured with one person held accountable with a specific date. Do not get into solving the issue during this meeting – a trap that many fall into making the 15min meeting extending beyond an hour.

How do you get started?

Well there are some basic categories and metrics that can be used as a starting point, to design a scoreboard.  These are;

1.      Safety – covers occupational health and safety aspects. Any safety incidents, near misses or safety observations made by the team.

2.      Environment – any incidents that impacts the environmental regulatory aspects.

3.      Quality – consumer complaints, internal quality metrics and internal audit results.

4.      Productivity – metrics that measure productivity for your team; number of items produced per hour, number of orders fulfilled per day etc.

5.      Delivery – on time delivery metrics measuring actual performance versus customer promises.

6.      Cost – cost per item or any other factors such as waste, overtime etc.

7.      Morale – absenteeism is one of the common metrics for morale, but engagement survey scores, improvement suggestions per employee etc. can also be used.

All these categories are not required when you start – keeping in mind that less is more. Identify a few critical metrics that engages your team to start with. As the process matures overtime, the team would naturally want to know more.

Making the most of your visual scoreboard

  • Ensure that the entire team can easily understand scoreboard. Display self-explanatory graphs, and visuals. Green and red indicators do make a big impact.
  • The scoreboard should be accessible to all team members during their normal periods of work.
  • The board should not be updated by one person. Hold different team members accountable to update various data points.

Should it be an electronic or a manual board?

I prefer a manual process with a whiteboard and marker pen over an automated display. The thinking is simple – if the teams have to manually place a data point on a graph, they have to have a good understanding of the measure first. It also helps to communicate a certain message when one data point is placed in the red-zone – the business is losing. So these manual systems definitely have an edge over automated systems. Once during a visit to a European luxury car manufacturing plant South Africa, I noticed how they used a simple laminated sheet and a whiteboard marker to update data on each machine. It was updated to the hour and even I could see if each manufacturing cell was winning or losing as a glance. And if they weren’t, there were comments as well. Make it effective first and then think about efficiency.

Get your team to know if the business is winning or losing today!

Under Ishan’s leadership, I worked on the initial development of Kellogg’s Continuous Improvement Center of Excellence (COE) work system. Ishan led this global, diverse, cross-functional team creating direction and driving alignment in completing this work. Moreover, Ishan was able to anticipate and manage risks encountered during implementation. I look forward to an opportunity to work with Ishan again, “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

Dave Clare

Designation: Continuous Improvement Manager – Kellogg North America

“In 2012 CCI invited Ishan to present at our ASPAC TRACC Conference in Beijing, China. At the time he was a leading the Kellogg’s WCO programme in Australia, a global initiative launched by the US cereals giant to implement and systematize world class operations. As a speaker, Ishan impressed with his engaging style and his unbridled passion for building strong systems to accelerate world class competitiveness. Our conference was certainly enhanced by his informative and dynamic presentation, drawing upon his considerable expertise and experience in the field of Lean and Operational Excellence.”

Kevin Whelan

Designation: Executive Vice President – Europe & Latin America, Competitive Capabilities International (CCI)

“Ishan has a demonstrated a great expertise on Operational Excellence Programs, leading work systems implementation and improvement. Besides the technical skills, his leadership drive and people oriented soft skills balance the change process required to produce great results through people.”

Victor Munoz

Designation: Supply Chain Capability Manager – Kellogg Latin America