Rise Performance Group

How The Right Metrics Help Avoid Disaster And Drive Growth


On July 16, 1999, John F Kennedy, Jr. piloted a Piper Saratoga II HP carrying his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren Bessette.  The three were on their way to a wedding in Martha’s Vineyard. Tragically, they never made it to the wedding.   On July 19, the fragments of Kennedy’s plane were found by the NOAA vessel Rude on the seabed 120 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the plane had crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Martha’s Vineyard, the probable cause being pilot error: “Kennedy’s failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation.”

Although the plane was equipped with instrumentation, Kennedy was not qualified to fly by instruments only.  Although the conditions did not legally require such qualification; other pilots flying similar routes were reporting no visual horizon, due to dense haze, making it very difficult to fly by vision alone.

The ability to read and interpret the data displayed by the instruments could have saved the lives of Kennedy and his passengers. (Source)

That’s an interesting story, but why do I include it here?  Because I want you to consider this question:  Is your team flying visually or are you relying on data and analytics to help you navigate your organization’s course?

We are living in times of unprecedented change – times with no visual horizon.  Your ability to spot trends and adjust your approach are critical to long term success.

We live in a society bloated with data yet starved for wisdom. ~ Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey

What metrics, data and systems is your team relying on?  Is your current system providing the clarity, wisdom and empowerment needed to achieve increasing levels of success by anticipating earlier and adjusting faster?  Or is your current system leaving you at risk of potential disaster?

At a minimum, every team should have a scoreboard that shows the team members whether they are on-track or off-track in achieving the team’s goal and allows team members to self-manage. This is analogous to the flight plan that affirmed JFK, Jr., was indeed en route to Martha’s Vineyard.  The more often the scoreboard is updated the faster you can respond to changing conditions.  Ideally your scoreboard is updated weekly; at a minimum, it should be updated monthly.  [bctt tweet=”Every team should have a scoreboard that shows the team members whether they are on-track or off-track in achieving the team’s goal.” username=”markatrisepg”]

In addition, the scoreboard should be supplemented by key metrics that provide insight and wisdom. These metrics should help forecast the future and not require special training or an instrument rating to utilize.  This is similar to how the instruments were telling JFK, Jr., he was losing altitude at an accelerated pace when he most likely felt he was on track.

Success is in our daily routine. 

These metrics are often called Key Performance indicators (KPIs).  KPIs are leading success indicators.  A good KPI is highly predictive.

There are three types of KPIs.

Small Outcomes: Small Outcomes are a type of KPI that are 100% controlled by the individual.  The only thing that keeps an individual from following through is the discipline to do so.

The Fitbit has inspired many to make sure they get in their 10,000 steps per day.  Doing so is completely within the wearer’s control and discipline is the only thing needed to ensure 10,000 steps per day.

Leveraged Behavior:  Another type of KPI that is predictive and discipline based is “leveraged behavior”.  This is something you do to keep your focus on what is important.

For example, a checklist is a leveraged behavior that pilots use to increase the probability of achieving the goal of a safe departure and arrival.  A leveraged behavior that might have saved JFK, Jr.’s life would have been to note the elevation in a log book every 5 minutes when they lost visibility and at an even faster pace when they were descending to land.

Weighing yourself every day is a good routine to keep your focus on fitness.  By the way, some are now arguing that the leveraged behavior of logging your steps, and the focus on overall fitness this creates, may provide as much benefit as actually taking the steps.

Small Goals: The last type of KPI is the small goal or lagging measures; these are highly influenced by the individual but may not be 100% within an individual’s control.

Weekly weight loss goals are a good example.  A person can 100% control the number of steps they take each day as well as the daily journaling of the number of calories consumed, however, they cannot 100% control how many pounds they lose or how much muscle they amass.  However, these short-term goals can help determine if the KPI’s are appropriate to ultimately produce the desired results.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you have a scoreboard that visually displays your performance against your annual goal?
  • Do all team members have leading indicators and lagging goals that are tracked against a baseline or forecast?
  • Does everyone have A Goal for the year they are committed to achieving?


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