ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

December 1998

Once Around The Block

A Better Place To Live

Chevron Fuels-Up For The Future

Imagine What Creativity Can Lead To

Lessons Learned At The Water Cooler

by Maryann Brennan
Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

The Quality Tool I Never Use

Sites Unseen

Book Review


The Quality Tool I Never Use

Carl G. Thor
JarrettThor International
Alexandria, Va.

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 managers—the 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” the organization.

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 today’s 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.

December '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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