A company we served many years ago had an appearance problem. They had encouraged staff to wear casual dress to the office whenever circumstances permitted (e.g. no client meetings). But it wasn’t long before ‘casual’ became ‘barely acceptable’ with designer holes in jeans becoming larger by the week.
A full length mirror was quietly installed in the foyer. The first sight to greet each member of staff as they entered the door was a reflection of themselves.
Problem solved, without a word being said.
Step forward to the present day, another company that we serve has done exactly the same.
Their mirror, however, takes the form of a large TV screen.
It is mounted in the foyer, in full view of everyone (staff, customers, suppliers), and displays a data platform containing business intelligence metrics that we supply. This includes operator performance, efficiency metrics, service quality, customer feedback, operating costs, events and incidents .. and so on.
We had designed it for the Management Team to ‘manage by exception’ i.e. to raise a flag whenever a measure steps outside of what’s expected, accompanied by information about the probable cause. Managers, equipped with diagnostic expertise and ready to firefight, can then step forward with a repair.
But the screen going up in the foyer signalled a different intention.
It was that everyone in the business should see for themselves how the business is operating, to perhaps even see themselves in the metrics and charts displayed.
It was to signal that the divide between ‘managers who fix’ and ‘people who do’ is not wanted. There isn’t the time or the expertise to take a ‘top down’ approach to tracking down problems and changing working practices so that a problem doesn’t surface again.
The best people to ask about a problem are those who work where the problem occurs. We just need to give those people a voice and find a way of bringing all the people with a perspective on the problem together to work out the way forward.
And this is what is starting to happen.
It’s not clear why, but some of the costs in the business are starting to come down, insurance claims are falling, and service quality measures are on the rise.
The business hasn’t changed, but perhaps the people have.
Faced with evidence in the mirror that something isn’t right, the people who know why are starting to change what they do, and to influence others.
They might be relating what they see on the screen with the way they approach their job, making connections that have never been visible before e.g. the way that people work, with satisfaction expressed by the customer, with the profitability of the business, with the pay in everyone’s pocket.
The business intelligence must, of course, be correct, understandable, and, above all else, trusted.
Anything less and the analysis platform will go the way of so many displays, portals and dashboards – looked at occasionally, at best.
But once trust starts to build, the best thing to do might be to then put the screen in the foyer. As with all mirrors, the sternest critics of what’s displayed might be those who see themselves in the reflection.
If so, stand out of the way, and let the mirror do its job.
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