Friday, August 8, 2014

Metrics without Minds: Getting the Full Value Out of Our Metrics Investmentby Nate Chenenko

I was at Target yesterday, and the cashier happened to have his screen facing me. As the person ahead of me in line finished checking out, I saw that the cashier’s screen changed; it looked like this:

Because I have a healthy obsession with metrics and workplace incentives, I asked the cashier what it meant.

He said, “That means my last ten checkouts were all green”

I asked, “What do you have to do to get a green checkout?”

He replied, “I don’t know, I just know it’s based on how fast you check people out and if you’re fast then you get green, and if you’re not then you get red, so I know 90% of mine for the day have been green - so I’m doing ok.”

This is interesting for two reasons—one very good, and one very bad. Let’s start with the good reason:

The Good:
  • Target is showing metrics in a manner that makes them very obvious to the person who can actually work to change them. This cashier gets immediate and consistent feedback about his performance on every transaction. If he’s slow (red) on one transaction, he’s immediately alerted and can start thinking about how to improve. And even if he’s been 100% green all day, he still sees that fresh “G” pop up on the screen, encouraging him to continue the good work. And I’d bet that Target managers have some real-time monitoring that allows them to see if a cashier’s performance drops below a certain threshold so that the manager can intervene.
  • Furthermore, I like the use of red and green. We know these stoplight colors really work for operators in a variety of situations.
So Target’s technology implementation is good.

Now The Bad:
  • The employee I spoke to didn’t know what made a transaction red or green! He knew that his performance was being measured, but he didn’t know how. If he doesn’t know the goal (the characteristics of a transaction that make it “green”), how is he supposed to reach the goal?
    • Yes, it’s possible that this employee didn’t want to tell me the details, but I think that he was being honest when he said “I don’t know.”
  • This is a training issue, and proves that all the metrics, dashboards, and tools in the world won’t help if you don’t communicate with your employees.
Bottom Line:

We know the value of metrics. In fact, we’ve installed measurements in every facet of our business. But if we skip the training and employee relations (or don’t check to see that our training was effective), how much value do we miss out on? Let’s make sure we align management’s goals for a high quality, productive workplace with the employees’ need to understand exactly how to become high performers—then we’ll get the full value of everything we’ve spent on measurement and reporting tools.

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