NEW: Louis Coutts

Guess what balanced score cards, dashboard metrics and productivity statistics have in common? They’re all lining your business’s brake pads! Get rid of them.

If you want to grow, take your foot off the brake

Louis Coutts

Some of the most effective brakes on the growth of organisations are measuring devices that try to measure everything from tea breaks to output.

These devices come into the organisation as part of the “business model”, and these often come in the briefcase of the latest MBA manager.

As a result, an organisation is trapped into incremental advance at the best, because these measurements are about incremental gains. Get rid of them; throw them out the door and it doesn’t matter if they are balanced score cards, dashboard metrics or productivity statistics; throw them out because the risk is that they will reduce you to mediocrity.

In the movie Dead Poet’s Society, Robyn Williams exhorted his students to tear out pages of a poetry book that reduced poetry to science and measurement. To appreciate poetry, you have to engage with its cadences and nuances. It is the same with a business. If management is not in touch with the cadences and nuances of the business, it will never rise above mediocrity.

One inescapable rule of management is that an organisation cannot achieve more than its potential no matter what anyone says. It is just an impossibility. The aim of management should be to do everything necessary to ensure that the business, and more particularly the people in the business, achieve their potential. To the extent that they are unable to achieve their potential, the outcome suffers and conversely, to the extent that they can, the outcome is superior.

The reason that organisations often fail to achieve their potential is the desire to control processes so that they can be measured. That is just measuring history. There is only one phenomenon that needs measuring in a business so that it can be addressed, and that is the extent to which the brakes are on.

The brakes in an organisation are the frustrations that prevent people from achieving their potential. Let’s call it the “f” word.

It is unbelievably simple. Any outcome in a business is equal to the potential less the frustrations that prevent the achievement of that potential. The formula is also simple. O = P – F (where O is the outcome, P is the potential and F is the friction or frustration inhibiting the potential).

If management concentrates on F and forgets about all the flash models that are around to tell you where you have been, then the business is more likely to go better places in a hurry and exceed expectations anchored in incremental metrics.

Time and time again people working in organisations that have sophisticated measuring tools complain about their frustrations and that if the measurement tools are measuring anything worthwhile, management is not paying attention.

The more likely event is that management is not measuring what is important and that is the level of frustration in the organisation or the extent to which the brakes are on.

This can only be measured by creating a culture of open communication where the staff feel comfortable about communicating their concerns and frustrations to management. It is the process of understanding the cadences and nuances of the business.

Without that culture, mediocrity and incremental growth are the best outcomes possible.


To read more Louis Coutts blogs, click here .



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