As a strategic communications consultant, I believe that using a “dashboard” is important, but equally as important is making sure the dashboard has a purpose.
Dashboards highlight different project parameters, but often with little interpretation or actions for those parameters. Like processes, the dashboard ultimately becomes an additional item to manage as opposed to being the tool for managing.
So, the question becomes, why are you using a dashboard?
When constructed properly, a dashboard helps identify potential issues so you can act on them before they become an issue. They can offer the same value for a new product launch—once you have identified the key parameters that indicate you’re veering off-track, the dashboard can then step in to facilitate course correction.
So, how do you go about designing a useful dashboard?
As a good portion of my work deals in issues management, I find that the extra time put in to creating and managing a dashboard is worthwhile if done so efficiently/thoughtfully.
As such, I’ve put together some useful guidelines to follow:
1. IDENTIFY KEY MARKERS
BEFORE developing the dashboard, identify key markers that can impact the outcome of the project. These should be things that will allow you to course correct—for example, in manufacturing, it could be availability of a key component used in production that is periodically in short supply; in commercialization, it could be the number of sales calls per region; in communications, it could be the tone and tenor of media coverage.
2. For each key marker, ask the question: IS IT MEASURABLE?
Ensure that the people or function responsible for that marker can measure it and offer how best they can measure it. A marker is not helpful if it can’t be measured.
3. CONSISTENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY: Make sure the markers are measured on a regular basis—daily, weekly, monthly.
Implement whatever rule/guideline is reasonable and makes sense to ensure you can act on it [take action]. That means establishing a balance—not so often that it becomes a key job just to measure it, but not so infrequent that it means it’s too late to fix. This takes a little bit of fine-tuning but it should be able to fit within a traditional job without causing too much stress either on the organization or the person.
4. MONITOR the key markers; note any changes
Evaluate changes in the markers – notice trends and determine if that means anything. Not all changes mean anything and if that’s the case, you may want to consider not following that marker. This is where you begin to notice if any change or attention is required. This is also where you may begin to act on variation.
5. MEET WITH YOUR TEAM; report and SHARE what you find.
You should Meet with your team (regularly?) and put the markers together to see if there’s any link or cause-effect. Here you need to be careful to not misinterpret any potential links but if you watch trends then after a while you may see something you can change.
Don’t let the information and knowledge you’ve gained go to waste – share findings and insights with your leadership so that this knowledge (what works and what doesn’t) can be applied to other functions within the organization.
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