Caution: I’m going to ask you to challenge what you know and hold dear. I’m going to ask you to take a long hard look at yourself and those you work with and make a decision. I’m going to ask you… to throw out your reports. If you just had a heart attack reading that last line, then this post is for you.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about: I like to lift weights. Anyone who lifts weights will tell you that by tracking your workouts, you will improve your performance. If I am measuring how much weight I lift over time, I’ll see an increase which will help me to continue. Additionally, if I am tracking how many calories and what I’m eating then I might even see an ab or two. The problem that I’ve noticed within our industry, is that we like to track everything. Imagine that I was tracking not only how much weight I lift but how many people came into the gym, how many machines I wiped down after use, how many songs I listened to on my headphones, the temperature in the gym, and the comparative cleanliness of the gym before and after my workout. If I’m tracking all that, how much time do I spend actually lifting weight? How much do I enjoy my workout? How likely am I to continue? It’s not to say that all reporting is counterproductive (this article does not apply to your financial reporting), but I would like to give a few suggestions to improve operations reporting.
1. Use reports that are actionable
I was once training a company that said that it was absolutely vital that they have a report that shows all leads and any lead activity that happens on every property on a weekly basis. Aside from just how big and convoluted this report would be, I had to ask ‘what’s the point?’ When looking at reports, ask yourself “To what end am I pulling this report” and if the answer is simply to see the information, this probably is not actionable. Your operations reports should help you to improve operations, not track every minute of your employee’s day. Find reports that lead directly to improvement. Find reports that correlate to results.
2. Track what you really want to improve
If we are using results that are actionable, then the numbers will improve with the action. But let’s make sure that the numbers equate to success. Like lifting weights, tracking your weight lifted will improve how much weight you lift. An example of a bad metric would be something like in my position as a software trainer; if I am measured solely on, say, the number of hours I train, wouldn’t I have incentive to train more hours? While it’s reasonable to say that more hours equates to success, remember that I can achieve more hours by training poorly and having clients go through multiple training sessions. If I’m a leasing agent being measured on the number of phone calls I make, doesn’t that incentivizes me to forget to ask key information so that I have a reason to call my prospect back? I would look better on the report but the prospect now could see me as less competent. Employees will rise to the ruler by which they’re measured so make sure that you’re using the correct ruler.
3. Remember, reports are only as good as the data used
Ask any leasing agent in the country if they report on daily traffic and they’ll probably say yes. Ask any leasing agent that doesn’t report to you if they make up that traffic and they’ll also probably say yes. Let’s now say that I use this traffic report to make a big decision; maybe to hire an extra staff member. I’m using a non-actionable report with made up data to help make decisions. I’d be just as well off flipping a coin. Additionally, our industry is full of “workarounds” in software. When you twist the software to fit your process, remember that your numbers could easily pull incorrectly.
If you’re pulling a report, ask yourself where the data is coming from. If it is corruptible or arbitrary, that probably is not a vital report. There are better ways to determine the information that you are trying to get from the report. Get creative and look for those ways.
Let’s make our reporting leaner, meaner, and stronger. Cut the fat out of your reporting to get results.