Scorecards or Dashboards

Dear Management Doctor: 

Do you have any thoughts on the usefulness of scorecards or dashboards? We have so many activities going on with ARRA, as well as our regular tasks, that I am considering using a scorecard. We especially need to keep up with our progress towards the goals that are determined by the state. I don't want something fancy, just a way to check how far along we are in meeting each goal, and what we have left to do. The scorecard would also be used as a reporting tool for our workforce board.

Here's an example of what we need.

Our goal for the ARRA youth program is 700 participants this summer. We are also supposed to double our adult and dislocated worker enrollment by next June 30th.
  • How much progress are we making towards those goals?
  • How much time do we have left?
  • Do we have to make a change in how we're operating to reach them?
I don't plan to include any lofty goals that we have no control over; such as lowering the unemployment rate. However, it's likely that some activities that we are not required to measure by the state or federal government, such as worker caseload, might be added later. Although I'd like to have a scorecard each month, it will probably be done on a quarterly basis in conjunction with our board meetings.

Is it worth the effort?

Thanks, as always, for being willing to consider our cases and to prescribe useful management medicine.

Nancy BB

Dear Nancy,

Yes, yes, yes. All programs need performance standards and tools to measure the standards. Some of these might be for internal use, others to be shared with the broader stakeholders. If your computer programs are properly programmed, the measurement should be close to automatic.

In the current planning and building permit programs, the standards and measurement systems are well developed and being used by many communities. These primarily address timing issues but I recently suggested some other measures (see Performance Standards).

When we move to long-range planning and programs like yours the standards are harder to arrive at but nonetheless important. Again, the process standards are relatively easy such as:

  • Did we do what we said we would do? What percent of our work program did we complete? Sunnyvale, CA, the long time guru of measurement, simply said, "We will do 100% of what we said we would do."
  • Other metrics such as number of people served, new people signed up, etc. are also relatively straightforward.
Where it gets more difficult is in setting standards for end state and addressing the effectiveness issues. Take a look at some of the new material on sustainability, global warming and new urbanisam for ideas. It appear you have some clear goals so I would start with these and try to develop measures that relate to the goals.

Performance measurement has had its ups and downs. Some of the lofty attempts at both the federal and state levels have failed. Often the goals were too many, too complicated, or simply too hard to measure. Even more important, the policy makers didn't use them for decision making. As an example, it is not unusual in our studies of cities and counties to find stacks of computer printouts with good information that the managers never look at.

For the development process, I think weekly reports are essential. For programs like yours, monthly or even quarterly reports may be sufficient.

There is an old saying in management: "You get what you inspect, not what you expect!"

In summary, go to it. We all need performance measures. This will require some trial and error to find the right ones but can lead to better organizations and improved productivity.

The Management Doctor

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