Without Metrics, You Will Be Blind
In a recent post, I presented the case that Without Systems, You Will Be Small.
Today, I want to talk about the second of four foundational disciplines of successful organizations: metrics. Monitoring metrics means consistently measuring, then reflecting upon, the key indicators of success and failure for the team or organization which you lead.
As tedious as it is to create and update relevant metrics, it must be done if we are to have long-term success in our leadership. In fact, if we fail to monitor our metrics, it’s as if we are leading with our eyes closed.
Leading Blind Is All Too Common
Have you ever felt like you were leading blind? You may have an innovative idea, a productive team, or a comfortable profit margin. But how well do you know, and I mean really know, the pulse of your organization? Can you answer these questions accurately:
- How do your customers feel?
- How does your organization compare to others?
- What are the key drivers of your revenue?
- What are your cardinal wastes?
- What are your primary expenses?
- What is getting done each day?
- What is the competition doing?
And you make decisions.
Isn’t that what leaders do? Make decisions. Decisions about vision and direction; decisions about people; decisions about new products or services; decisions about spending. Yet quality decisions cannot be made if we don’t have an in depth knowledge of what is going on in the key areas of our organization.
Neglecting to be watchful of these things is endemic when our organizations are small, when we lack the resources or the know-how to implement measuring tools. But, as our organizations blossom, we must grow with them. In fact, we will limit our growth and longevity, if we avoid metrics.
Did you know that 46% of the Fortune 500 companies of the 1980s do not even exist anymore? Fortune 500 companies are the top grossing companies in the United States—and nearly half of these companies are extinct. They went bust. Why?
While volumes have been written about the reasons for such failures, in most cases, it boils down to two reasons: Poor data. Or poor judgment. You would assume that these mega companies had capable leaders, right? So, somehow the leaders at the helm did not get the right information in time to make the right decisions. They were leading blind. In our leadership, being disciplined to look at what really matters—numbers, data, and trends—is vital to the success of your long-term journey.
Why Metrics May Not Be a Part of Your Leadership
So why are metrics not as common as they should be?
- Everyone is busy. Everyone is busy taking care of daily operations. Stopping to gather information and reflect on them always seems to take a lesser priority to more immediate demands.
- You are not sure how to track it. Maybe no one in your organization has the right skill set to practically gather the needed information and track it in an intelligible way.
- It is not important. Sometimes we simply think it is a waste of our time to delve deep into the data. Often, looking at metrics is not critical to short-term success, so it is easy to put off. Until there is a crisis.
- We don’t have the discipline. It takes discipline to do anything in life that is not urgent. And that is true in leadership as well. The urgent always seems to trump the important. And so, even if we know it is vital, we simply do not discipline ourselves to prepare and reflect on the data.
- There is no system in place. When there is not a system in place for gathering and examining metrics regularly, they tend to get overlooked.
- We have metrics, but they are archaic. You may be looking at reports that were built several years ago. If they are not relevant anymore, new ones must be designed.
- It is not my job. This is a dangerous statement. As the leader, it is definitely your job to examine key metrics. The buck stops with you.
The Three Levels of Metrics That Should Be Measured
So what do you measure? Create metrics at three levels in your organization.
- The Team Level: These are areas that should be monitored daily by the team. To use a clinic setting as an example: Were patient messages answered? Were appointments confirmed for the next day? Were the medical charts finished? Were the important documents signed? Was the billing done for today? Were the projected collections met? This is crucial to keeping everyone on target. Our team meets at the end of every shift—all of us—to go over a list of about fifteen metrics. As a team, we all try to meet our daily goals. And we chart our successes and failures daily.
- The Management Level: These are the areas that must be monitored by the management: Have the claims been sent for the day? Did we get any bad reviews online? Are we seeing a slump in patient satisfaction numbers? Negative trends can be caught quickly if metrics are monitored at this level daily or weekly. And positive ones can be reenforced.
- The Corporate Level: As an owner or executive leader in an organization, we must look at a different set of data. Are we profitable? Did we meet our stated organizational goals? What trends in reimbursement are taking place? How many new patients are we seeing, and what does that mean? Catastrophe can be more readily avoided when the corporate leaders acknowledge and interpret the metrics globally.
What to Do with the Data
Obviously the goal is not just to see the metrics, it is to incorporate them into our decision-making process, regardless of your role on the team. Once your people are disciplined to gather meaningful data on a regular basis, then there must be a system of reflecting on the statistics.
You may have heard the maxim: “What gets measured, gets done.” It’s true. Improvement happens almost automatically when we start looking at essential parameters. Whether automatic or not, we must look at them in order to make solid decisions.
How to Start
The greatest challenge in monitoring metrics is making time to both create and update them. If this is the problem you face, you must simply block out time to do it, and honor it like any other appointment on your calendar. Strategize that in the next few weeks, you will set aside at least one hour a week to start building robust metrics for your organization.
Whether you want to look at standard reports from your operational software, build a scorecard on a spreadsheet, or use a more advanced dashboard: Start somewhere. Make it a discipline to build on your system of metrics. Make sure the data that you and your team are looking at remains relevant.
Actionable Step: Aim to invest at least one hour a week into evaluating metrics for your organization. Make it a part of your culture.
For Further Reading: