A lot of leaders know what they want from the people they lead, but are not particularly skilled in getting the desired results. Often, leaders in this position end up blaming the people they lead. Most often, the fault lies with the leader’s inability to focus effort toward a particular result.
A successful leader finds ways to focus effort toward their desired results. There are many ways to do this, but most of them boil down to measuring the results you want to impact. Management is often the art of taking abstract concepts and communicating them in a clear, quantitative way.
For example, the factory manager knows that he wants to lower the number of accidents, but having fewer accidents is a fairly abstract concept. However the number of days since the last accident is a very concrete concept that is easy for everyone to understand. That is why many factories have a large sign that shows the number of days they have gone without having an accident. It helps measure the concept of having fewer accidents in a way that is understood and measurable. Many factories have found they can lower the number of accidents simply by making people aware of how well they are doing at achieving the goal.
The trick is to find the proper thing to measure. There was an IT department where the manager decided to measure the number of trouble tickets they closed each week. This metric was used as part of the employees’ performance review. However, if everything was running just fine with no problems, there were no trouble tickets to close.
Once employees realized that their performance looked bad when things were running perfectly, they began unplugging certain pieces of networking equipment for 15 minutes at a time. The users would log a bunch of trouble tickets and the IT staff would plug the equipment back in and close all of the tickets.
In this case, the manager was basically measuring the number of problems that were fixed. If an IT department is functioning well, the number of problems from system outages will be very low. The manager basically created problems because that is what was being measured.
Making metrics visible keeps people focused on the desired results. A skilled leader can identify the measurements of success and come up with creative ways to make those metrics concrete and noticeable.