I recently conducted an employee survey for a mid-sized biotechnology company. It is a measurement-oriented company that follows extremely detailed operating procedures to make certain it produces high quality products. The results showed that employees didnt have a clear understanding of the organizations goals, the steps it was taking to achieve its goals, or the metrics it was using to track the companys performance.
When I related this to senior management, they were dumbfounded. They told me that they conduct monthly all-employee meetings in which the president uses a detailed PowerPoint presentation to relate how well they are performing.
I then fed back these results to employees and asked them why they didn't understand the company's goals and how well it was performing. They said there was just too much detail provided in these presentations. One employee elaborated, "The president reports on all 32 of the company metrics and by the end of the presentation we're totally confused." She added, "Just tell us whether we're doing better or worse. Give us one number."
THE PROBLEM FOR EMPLOYERS
Employers today are measuring just about everything. Performance metrics, quality metrics, efficiency metrics, customer metrics, you name it and it's measured and tracked. Dashboards and balanced scorecards that present all these numbers in one place have become commonplace.
There is nothing wrong with measuring many things if the measurements are used appropriately. The problem at many organizations, however, is that there are just too many metrics. Many dashboards, assembled presumably to simplify the process, end up looking like the cockpit of a 747 with hundreds of gauges and meters. As Harry Nilsson said in "The Point, "A point in every direction is the same as no point at all." Metrics must focus rather than distract or confuse the organization.
WHAT TO DO
- Remember That Less is
Identify the one or two most important organizational performance metrics and focus everyone in the organization on them. That's where the focus should be.
Communications to Employees
Employees want to know, "how are we doing," not the results of 32 different metrics. Besides, psychologists demonstrated long ago that we can only remember 7 plus or minus 2 pieces of information. Boil it all down for them and tell them the bottom line. Have the backup details available if they ask questions or want additional information.
Practice parsimony. When communicating to employees about the performance of the organization, use the simplest explanation that answers