Focussing On The Scoreboard Won’t Improve Team Performance


It does not matter what type of team sport you follow – soccer, footy, cricket or netball, we all innately understand that your team won’t become champions if you are focussing on the scoreboard.

So why do we waste so much time focusing on the scoreboard in the world of business?

Over my career I have held a number of roles that have involved accountability for designing and installing organisational ‘scoreboards’ to measure Customer Experience and the Employee Experience.

I have learnt many important lessons over this time and felt it might be helpful to capture and share some of these.

The biggest lesson I have learned is this – don’t waste time on “unhelpful” conversations at the leadership table.

“Unhelpful” conversations occur when leaders engage in topics that do NOT meaningfully contribute to the urgent and important work of improving Employee and Customer Experiences – and improving business performance. Unhelpful conversations happen when leaders undermine the experience and skills of the people they have employed to design EX and CX measurement systems. Unhelpful conversations are also often a thinly veiled attempt to blame, deny or justify the current levels of performance. Sometimes they are a diversionary tactic to steer the conversation away from the ‘harder’ conversations around underlying performance, operational accountabilities and leadership calibre.

Unhelpful conversations often focus on interrogating and challenging the scoreboard, or dismissing it entirely.

In my experience, unhelpful conversations are triggered by questions or statements such as:

  • Are we really sure we are measuring all the right things, can’t we add this extra metric?
  • Are you really sure that this number is right, I feel that I am a performing better than that…
  • I don’t think we are using the right metrics or methodology… we should really be using [insert an alternative option here]
  • Our part of the business is different… we really can’t expect to achieve good EX or CX performance
  • We can’t make any EX or CX improvements due to [insert ‘showstopper’ excuse here e.g. budgets, leaders, technology, capacity].

In contrast, helpful conversations focus on the score and seek to unpack and understand performance, and are shaped by questions such as:

  • Are we winning in comparison to our competitors and our own historical performance?
  • Is our performance sustainable over the longer term?
  • Is our performance getting better or worse, and why?
  • What are the unwritten ground rules at play and how are they helping our hindering our ability to achieve our aspirations?
  • Do we have the right players on the field and are they all in positions that allow them to play to their strengths?
  • Are our coaches good at what they do?
  • Do our players trust each other, trust their coach and trust the club president?
  • Do we have the right club president and how is their mindset influencing our performance?
  • What can we learn from others who have been in this situation and made major improvements?
  • Within our constraints, what meaningful and tangible things can we start doing right away to improve our performance?

Of course, as keepers of the scoreboard, we have to earn the right to guide conversations from being unhelpful to being helpful.

We earn this right by having strong experience across the domains we are measuring – or by building a team that does and trusting in their advice.

We need to be very confident that the scoreboard we have designed is robust and be sure that;

  • The scoreboard has the ‘right’ set of numbers and dials on it – where ‘right’ is based on a deep understanding of the business outcomes that need to be achieved and the inputs to these outcomes
  • The scoreboard is well suited to the current maturity levels of the leaders who need to enable the delivery of the desired business outcomes
  • We are prepared to answer any well-intentioned questions and legitimate concerns (remembering that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ scorecard and there are always trade-offs).

If your scoreboard contains sample data (data that comes from surveying a sample of the population such as eNPS, NPS, Effort or Satisfaction) there are some additional important considerations such as;

  • You understand and have clearly communicated the confidence intervals around any measures that are based on sample data to ensure that you are guarding against the risk of people jumping at shadows believing performance has changed over time, when in fact is has almost certainly not changed (i.e. the confidence intervals overlap)
  • You are measuring at an appropriate frequency, aligned to the operational cycles of the business
  • You are asking questions in the right way (clear, simple language with a singular focus area for each question)
  • You are mitigating the influence of seasonality or other ‘special causes’
  • There is no gaming happening in the organisation that could influence results (e.g. a manager forcefully ‘reminding’ their team a week before your Employee Advocacy survey that “only a score of 9 or 10 counts”)
  • You have not assumed to know what all the drivers of a good CX or EX are, and you have asked open questions that allow people to share whatever is important to them
  • You are continually reviewing the measurement quality of all survey instruments (e.g. testing for factors such as respondent fatigue or non-response)
  • You have designed your surveys to effectively support the use of analytical tools to reveal the most important actionable drivers for managers and leaders

Given the enormous challenges we are facing in the business world today, and the time constraints we all operate within – every conversation counts. This is especially true for the conversations happening at leadership meetings and board meetings.

Unhelpful conversations carry an enormous opportunity cost. With action-packed leadership agendas, every minute we waste on unhelpful conversations at the leadership table, is a minute we don’t invest in helpful conversations about performance.

We have a HUGE amount of important and urgent work to do to close the gap between the experiences our employees and customers expect and the experiences we are delivering, given:

  • Only 13% of the global workforce is engaged (OfficeVibe)
  • Only 52% of employees believe that their workplace is “mentally healthy” (BeyondBlue)
  • 80% of CEO’s believe that they are delivering a superior experience, but only 8% of customers agree (Qualtrics)
  • 75% of customers want to interact more with real people as technology improves (PwC)
  • “Unfriendly service” and “bad employee attitude” are the #1 and #2 reasons why customers stop doing business with a company (PwC)

My hope is that more leaders across the business world invest more of their limited, precious time on helpful conversations that enable the creation of great experiences, so that people and performance thrive.

Please let me know if you found this article to be helpful! I would also love to hear about the lessons you have learnt around measuring CX and EX.

I would like to acknowledge the great work of the many talented scoreboard designers and innovators I have had the privilege of working with over my career including; Ilmar Taimre, Karsten Fruechlt, Kate Menzel, James Heath, Emma Kovac, Simon Gaymer, Heidi Clarris, Ed Aspinall, Nikki Aland, Tom Caley, Sarah Hood and Julia Biles. You have all made significant contributions to the design of great EX and CX scoreboards that have supported my ability to facilitate many helpful conversations.

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