Business leaders use sports analogies frequently because in sports there are rules, score-keeping, and, barring the occasional tie, winners.
In high-performing enterprises, the organization’s values are their rules of engagement. Tracking is their scoreboard. And accountability is not punishment; it’s a support system for winners.
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Tracking is your mechanism for communicating clearly and unambiguously the performance occurring at the enterprise, business unit, departmental and individual levels.
It’s what your best employees want.
They want to know how they are doing against their individual objectives and they want to know how their performance is helping the organization achieve its larger objectives.
Is Your Tracking A Stick or a Tool?
Monitoring performance means you are observing the activities that are occurring—or not occurring. You’re watching the activities.
Measuring performance means you are assigning a value to the effectiveness of the action you observe. You’re assessing the impact of the activities.
Tracking is one of the Seven Pillars of Accountability and the use of the word tracking is deliberate. Yes, the “T” in tracking helps spell “CULTURE” in the Seven Pillars of Accountability, but more important, tracking provides a broader term for monitoring, measuring and driving performance.
The key components of the Tracking Pillar are:
- Deciding what performance indicators to track and what increments to use
- Ensuring that what’s being tracked is shared widely and connects with your employees intellectually, operationally, emotionally, and financially
- Making the tracking timely, accurate, consistent, and visible
The key to what and how you track is making certain your employees understand why you’re tracking performance.
At the most fundamental levels, tracking performance should do two jobs:
- Forecast results.
- Modify behavior to get more of the results you want.
So if you use tracking as a stick that’s wielded to drive performance, you are a fool with a tool.
If, however, you believe—and, just as important, your employees believe—tracking helps people make better decisions, improve performance, and celebrate milestones, then tracking will be an essential component in your quest to drive accountability at every level of your organization.
Tracking performance and making this information visible throughout the organization are crucial for driving high performance. Why? Because what’s tracked and how it’s shared provide the feedback mechanism that enables leaders to remove much of the subjectivity, emotion, and excuses associated with underperformance.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,” said Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World.
Tracking performance allows the facts to speak for themselves and do the heavy lifting of holding people accountable.
Think Differently about Tracking
Your first decision about tracking performance is determining what to track.
When Peter Schutz was named CEO of Porsche, he became the first non-German to lead the German car manufacturer. The drastic move to hire an American engineer was prompted by the company’s decline in prestige and sales. Porsche was no longer winning races. Porsche was also losing money.
I met Peter Schutz and heard his story about achieving extraordinary results from ordinary people. Schutz shared this insight into people and the importance of tracking what really matters: Upon his arrival at Porsche, Schutz found himself participating in a tradition where about 40 of the company’s top managers gathered for lunch every Monday. Talk around the table, he remembers, was “fairly dull,” so during a break in the conversation Schutz asked, “What is happening at Porsche today that is so exciting that you can hardly wait to run and tell our customers and dealers about it?”
The silence was deafening.
With that simple question, Schutz pinpointed a “fundamental problem that would not show up on a financial statement.” Schutz realized that “Porsche needed an exciting challenge to power its turnaround. It lacked the driving force of motivated people working on something that truly energized them.”
So Schutz focused his team’s talent on winning the next prestigious race. Operating on an impossibly tight deadline, the freshly energized team delivered a car that delivered the win.
Just as Schutz learned that not everything shows up in a report, other leaders at high-performing companies track performance in a variety of ways. They watch an assortment of different indicators. And they find a variety of ways to communicate what’s being tracked. The key is knowing what information is helpful to share and—even more important—knowing how to use that information to set expectations and to hold people accountable.
If you have the right employees, they will tell you what information they need to be effective and to believe the work they’re doing is meaningful.
It’s okay to track a lot of things. But keep it simple and determine your top three metrics.
One of your next decisions about tracking is figuring out how to share the information.
Save the spreadsheets for the financial guys and make sure the information you share with your troops is something they understand, care about, and can influence. Then figure out how to get it out of your computers and into the workplace. After all, tracking is your scoreboard.
The Tracking Pillar offers huge opportunities to change what and how you’re tracking in order to drive accountability in the workplace and improve individual, business unit, departmental and—ultimately—enterprise performance.
From more than 5,000 accountability assessments completed by CEOs and Key Executives worldwide, the Tracking Pillar is consistently the lowest scoring pillar. The problem is not that leaders don’t track performance. The problem is that what’s being tracked doesn’t connect with the people who are doing the work.
The irony should not be lost on leaders that your best employees want tracking. Yet companies fail so badly to provide it in ways that are meaningful, reliable, actionable and— most of all— visible so that employees can actually use the data to make better decisions.
Ask the people on your team (not just your direct reports, but two or three levels down):
- Are we measuring what matters?
- What soft indicators should we consider tracking (i.e., morale, speed of decision-making, etc.)?
- Do our systems convert data into timely, accurate, and actionable information?
- Have we established checkpoints to track progress in the life of a task or project?
- What changes must we make to reduce our mistakes? Why is there never enough time to do something right the first time, but always enough time to go back and fix our mistakes?
- Do our employees connect what they’re doing to what we’re tracking? Operationally? Financially? Emotionally?
- What picture of our performance would be worth 1,000 words to our employees?
Although it’s true that what gets measured is what gets done, it’s also true that your accountability and performance will improve when what you track connects to the work you’re asking your people to do.
After all, it’s what your best employees want.