The Quality Tool I Never Use
Carl G. Thor
Carl Thor is past president of the American Product- ivity
and Quality Center and author of the landmark, The Measures of Success,
considered a must for anyone interested in improving organizations and the
recently published, Designing Feedback.
What is the tool that didn't work for you?
The technique is variously called the cockpit or scoreboard by its proponents.
It conjures up the image of being unable to fly a plane without the dashboard.
A pilot has to have all the gauges, information and figures. Managing an
organization is somehow supposed to be analogous to that. A dynamic leader
has to have the green, red and yellow dials, switches and gauges.
Other variations of this include the corporate measures
directory or the war room. The concept claims for a senior leader to be
effective they need a profuse display of all kinds of data. If six charts
are good then 60 are better. Now I am definitely a quantitative person.
My calling in life is to consult in the area of performance measurement.
I love to crunch numbers. This sounds wonderful to someone like me.
Why didn't it work or why is it useless?
Gradually over the years I have found that these techniques encourage the
absolute worst tendency in technical senior managersthe
tendency to micromanage. The cockpit/dashboard/ scoreboard, whatever you
want to call it, promulgates the belief that the organization will fail
unless the senior manager knows every piece of data and has it fed to them
continuously. It encourages the lone wolf syndrome. I once knew
a brilliant CEO, the type of leader who sleeps three hours a night and thrives
on it. He had 54 key measures to manage the organization. He took them home
and studied them every night. He astounded his employees and colleagues.
What happen? No one did anything. They waited for him to literally fly
How would you fix the tool?
I would reduce the plane analogy to that of the automobile. There are only
three or four things necessary to keep an eye on with todays automobile.
Everyone else can and should keep track of all the other auxiliary gauges
and instruments, but the driver, the CEO, needs only to be concerned about
working on the five or six survival measures.
What words of counsel or warning would you give to someone
else before they used the tool?
Remember that the real purpose of corporate measurement is not to put all
the measures in the hands of one executive. The executive cockpit is a solution
looking for a problem because measurement means nothing unless it is put
in the hands of the person who can deal directly with the measures. That
person is usually located two or three levels below the top.