I’ve lived in the great state of Texas for more than 25 years and I regularly get the opportunity to drive across the state to visit my clients. During these long journeys, it’s not unusual to pass a small city in the countryside that has an enormous football stadium. Yes, everything you’ve heard about things being “bigger in Texas” is true – especially our high school football stadiums.
At the end of each football field sits an old-school scoreboard, not the giant LED screens that have taken over college and the NFL. For the most part, these digital megatrons haven’t made it to Texas high school stadiums – yet.
But all scoreboards exist so the teams, media and fans can quickly understand where each team stands in relation to the game.
The central pieces of information are the Home and Away scores, and although the scoreboard does include a few other items of critical information, such as the amount of time left in the game, the quarter or the current down, the score is the most prominent. Why? People just want to see who’s winning.
RESULTS SHAPE FUTURE ACTIONS
We know that the coaches have a full arsenal of statistics beyond what you see on the scoreboard (e.g. completion percentage, yard per carry, turnovers), but they review those additional stats after the game. A simple scoreboard tells the teams and fans everything they need to know about the game while it’s happening.
Surprisingly, many businesses haven’t taken the time to create a scoreboard for their team members.
It’s a critical step in the pursuit of wins. Thinking back to a Friday night football game in Texas, imagine how different the game would be if neither the team, fans nor coaches knew the score. How would the coach know what plays to run? Should they run a hurry-up offense? Or should they focus on the running game to burn up the clock? It’s unimaginable to play a football game without a score.
START BY UNDERSTANDING THE GAME
To create a scoreboard for your organization, start by clearly understanding how your company wins at your game. What main activities need to be completed on a regular basis? What deliverables drive your business? These activities may be different from department to department, but start with the primary deliverable for your customer. What is it?
“Hint: It’s never about net profit. That’s a result of doing everything else correctly.”
A good way to determine the numbers on your scoreboard is to consider a balance of leading and lagging indicators. Lagging indicators happened in the past, such as net income, or the score of either team. Leading indicators are activities completed on a regular basis, such as open orders, or the current down. Typically, the accomplishment of a leading indicator will directly influence a lagging indicator. That’s why football coaches tell their players to think about one play at a time.
FOCUS ON CRITICAL NUMBERS
Greg Crabtree, author of “Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits” holds that most critical numbers come with a quantity and a rate. For example, number of orders processed is the quantity, but we also need to know average gross margin per order – the rate.
Too much focus on either the quantity or the rate can create a problem.
For example, processing a lot of orders at a low margin is not successful – neither is producing a high-margin item, only to process a few. In football, you can gain a lot of yards on offensive, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t score points. Always make sure you have a quantity and a rate.
Once you have identified the critical numbers for your scoreboard, the next step is to post and regularly update them.
I recommend that you start simple and evolve to a sophisticated solution over time. For smaller organizations, a dry-erase whiteboard that’s updated daily is a great first step. Once you’re comfortable with the data on your scoreboard, you can eventually adopt digital dashboards with fancy graphics that update in real-time.
But just like those old-school football scoreboards in Texas, the most important step is to let your team know if they’re winning.
DNA tests are cool, but are they worth it?
(OPINION EDITORIAL) DNA tests are all the rage currently but are they worth potentially having your genetic makeup sold and distributed?
Over the last few years, DNA testing went mainstream. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have offered easy access to the insights of your genetics, including potential health risks and family heritage, through simple tests.
However, as a famously ageless actor once suggested in a dinosaur movie, don’t focus too much on if you can do this, without asking if you should do this.
When you look closely, you can find several reasons to wonder if sending your DNA to these companies is a wise choice.
These reasons mostly come down to privacy protection, and while most companies do have privacy policies in place, you will find some surprising loopholes in the fine print. For one, most of the big players don’t give you the option to not have your data sold.
These companies, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, can always sell your data so long as your data is “anonymized,” thanks to the HIPPA Act of 1996. Anonymization involves separating key identifying features about a person from their medical or biological data.
These companies know that loophole well; Ancestry.com, for example, won’t even give customers an opt-out of having their DNA data sold.
Aside from how disconcerting it is that these companies will exploit this loophole for their gain at your expense, it’s also worth noting that standards for anonymizing data don’t work all that well.
In one incident, reportedly, “one MIT scientists was able to ID the people behind five supposedly anonymous genetic samples randomly selected from a public research database. It took him less than a day.”
There’s also the issue of the places where that data goes when it goes out. That report the MIT story comes from noted that 23andMe has sold data to at least 14 outside pharmaceutical firms.
Additionally, Ancestry.com has a formal data-sharing agreement with a biotech firm. That’s not good for you as the consumer, because you may not know how that firm will handle the data.
Some companies give data away to the public databases for free, but as we saw from the earlier example, those can be easy targets if you wanted to reverse engineer the data back to the person.
It would appear the only safe course of action is to have this data destroyed once your results are in. However, according to US federal regulation for laboratory compliance stipulates that US labs hold raw information for a minimum of 10 years before destruction.
Now, consider all that privacy concern in the context of what happens when your DNA data is compromised. For one, this kind of privacy breach is irreversible.
It’s not as simple as resetting all your passwords or freezing your credit.
If hackers don’t get it, the government certainly can; there’s even an instance of authorities successfully obtaining a warrant for DNA evidence from Ancestry.com in a murder trial.
Even if you’re not the criminal type who would worry about such a thing, the precedent is concerning.
Finally, if these companies are already selling data to entities in the biomedical field, how long until medical and life insurance providers get their hands on it?
I’ll be the first to admit that the slippery slope fallacy is strong here, but there are a few troubling patterns of behavior and incorrect assumptions already in play regarding the handling of your DNA evidence.
The best course of action is to take extra precaution.
Read the fine print carefully, especially what’s in between the lines. As less scrupulous companies look to cash in on the trend, be aware of entities who skimp on privacy details; DNA Explained chronicles a lot of questionable experiences with other testing companies.
Above all, really think about what you’re comfortable with before you send in those cheek swabs or tubes of spit. While the commercials make this look fun, it is a serious choice and should be treated like one.
How to deal with an abusive boss and keep your job, too
(OPINION EDITORIAL) Sometimes bosses can be the absolute worst, but also, you depend on them. Here’s how to deal with an abusive boss and, hopefully, not get fired.
Nothing can ruin your work life like an abusive boss or supervisor. But when you’re dependent on your boss for assignments, promotions – heck, your paycheck – how can you respond to supervisor abuse in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your job or invite retaliation?
A new study to be published in the next Academy of Management Journal suggests an intriguing approach to responding to an abusive boss. As you might expect, their study shows that avoiding the abuser does little to change the dynamic.
But the study also found that confronting the abuser was equally ineffective.
Instead, the study suggests that workers in an abusive situation “flip the script” on their bosses, “shifting the balance of power.” But how?
The researchers tracked the relationship between “leader-follower dyads” at a real estate agency and a commercial bank. They found that, without any intervention, abuse tended to persist over time.
However, they also discovered two worker-initiated strategies that “can strategically influence supervisors to stop abuse and even motivate them to mend strained relationships.”
The first strategy is to make your boss more dependent on you. For example, one worker in the study found out that his boss wanted to develop a new analytic procedure.
The worker became an expert on the subject and also educated his fellow co-workers. When the boss realized how important the worker was to the new project, the abuse subsided.
In other words, find out what your boss’s goals are, and then make yourself indispensable.
In the second strategy, workers who were being abused formed coalitions with one another, or with other workers that had better relationships with the boss. The study found that “abusive behavior against isolated targets tends to stop once the supervisor realizes it can trigger opposition from an entire coalition.”
Workplace abuse is not cool, and it shouldn’t really be up to the worker to correct it. At times, the company will need to intervene to curb bad supervisor behavior. However, this study does suggest a few strategies that abused workers can use to try to the tip the balance in their favor.
Avoid the stack, conquer busy work as it comes
(PRODUCTIVITY) It’s easy overwhelmed with emails and a stack of real mail. But tackling as it comes may help to enhance organization and productivity.
A few weeks ago, I was walking through my office (also known as my bedroom after 5 p.m.) and I noticed a stack of mail that I had tossed aside over the course of the last few months. While they were non-urgent, this collection of paperwork had been opened, read, and left unattended.
Now, this was a classic move of mine – leave a mess for Future Taylor to clean up. So, imagine my surprise when Present Taylor woke up and decided to put an end to “the stack.”
I sat down, went through everything, and took care of what needed to be done. Even though my wallet took a few hits, it felt great to have this cleared up and off my desk.
Right then and there, I made it a rule to let things only cross my desk once (unless there’s some extenuating circumstance in which it requires me to come back to it; i.e. my favorite sentence on this paperwork “This is not a final bill.”) There’s no point in drawing out the stress that “the stack” induce.
This led me to finally attacking something that’s been on my to-do list since I created my Gmail account in 2009 – create an organizational system.
I set aside some time to create folders (for individual projects, people I communicate with frequently, etc.)
While this is all stuff that you may have already implemented, my point is that this increase my productivity and lifted a weight off of my shoulders I didn’t acknowledge was there.
So, I encourage you to find one of those menial tasks that has been on your to-do list forever and tackle it.
This can include, organizing all of your electronic files into folders, updating your phone and email contacts, or going through all of your desk drawers to get rid of unneeded items. Organizing and freshening up your workspace can help increase your focus.
Once you’re organized and in gear, try the “let it cross your desk once” method. When an email comes in, respond to it or file it. When a bill comes in, pay it. You may be surprised at your rise in productivity.
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