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The Problem With Dashboards/Metrics

by David Brock on March 9th, 2018

We all have our dashboards and key indicators.  We assess performance base on dial, meters, red/green/yellow lights.

We sit at our desks going through mind numbing screens measuring everything that’s going on.  We labor extensively over Excel spreadsheets, doing analysis, building formulas, pivot tables, slicing and dicing data in many ways.

We use these tools to identify challenge, problems, opportunities.  For example, win rates may be down, pipelines may be anemic, prospecting activity is down, sales cycles are increasing, average transaction values are declining, retention/renewals aren’t hitting target, onboarding ramp time is too long.

The data helps us isolate problem areas, areas where we may not be performing as well as we can.  Think of it as someone waving a red flag–your attention is immediately drawn to it, you know something’s up.

But that’s where our dashboards and analysis stops, it only helps us identify certain problem areas, but, by itself we don’t understand why we have the problem or even specifically, what the problem is.

To understand this, we have to drill down to actually understand what is happening.  We have to go on customer calls with our sales people, examining how they prepare, engage, execute, follow-up.  We have to listen to their calls, we have to review their prospecting letters/proposals/presentations.  We have to talk to them and engage them.

And then we have to do something about it–coach, develop, train, and so forth.

But these are the parts that seem to be missing!  Too often managers are consumed with their metrics, I just read a comment  “….. sales people are held to demanding metrics…”  What we miss is these activity based metrics just call our attention to what’s happening.  They report what is being achieved and help us identify areas where we are falling short.

But they do nothing to help us understand and correct what is happening.

Leadership is not a remote control exercise.  We don’t develop our people. we don’t help them improve performance by relying only on our dashboards.

We create no value, by reading the dashboards to our people.  Letting them know there is a “red light” on their trailing 3 month win rates isn’t helping them–they see the same dashboard and the same indicator.  What they need help in is understanding why it’s happening and what to do about it.

We are mechanizing sales and sales management without understanding what’s really needed to consistently improve and sustain high performance.

It’s interesting, our manufacturing colleagues have long understood this issue.  Lean manufacturing focuses on performance metrics, visible signs of problems (for example, a flashing red light at a certain station).  But what they’ve learned is these don’t solve the problem.  In lean manufacturing, when a red light flashes, the line is stopped, managers and workers gather at the workstation to understand what’s really happening, why, and develop solutions to address the problem.

If we aren’t doing the same in our leading our organizations and teams, we aren’t doing anything that creates value for them or the organization.


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