“Tram Track” or “Strategic” mode?

 imagePoor decisions are most often caused by lack of understanding, not lack of data. But another challenge is unquestioned acceptance of the business processes being measured.  At times many appear very logical, but are often obscured by the very data itself.

I notice when managers look at unacceptable results, they often do one of two things. Me too!! They either pick up the phone to call someone to ask for more information on why. Or they  pick up the mouse to dig deeper for the reason.  Once the answer comes,  corrective decisions are made. This tram line management style is a norm and the bias of most Performance Management systems. It works well to make sure the process,  the “tram”, stays on the tracks.  But many fail to follow the learning rule that to improve you need to look around at things nearby that may be obvious.

Some years ago, someone I know came to a very busy  Asian city where the traffic is horrendous and often gridlocked for long periods in the morning rush.

On his first morning he asked the hotel concierge to hail him a cab. After a painful hour of stop start traffic he arrived at his destination. When he explained, it was suggested he move to a hotel on the other side of the street. Then his journey would start in the same direction and would be much shorter. He decided instead to take a 10 minute walk to the corner where he crossed at the lights and hailed a cab himself. This cut nearly 30 minutes off his journey. He did this for 2 more days and was much happier.

On his final day he checked out of his hotel. But now he had his bags so was faced with a dilemma. One thing he noticed  on the prior 2 days was the traffic to the corner was often stopped for long periods. So this time he simply crossed the road full of stationary vehicles and took only 20 minutes for his journey.

On the morning of the third day he had all the data he needed to make the best decision. But  it was not until he had another reversionary event that brought it to notice on his fifth day that he applied  it.

One could argue that process is a function of habit and data supports what ever we need to maintain the comfort of this. It is usually not until events threaten this that we see all the data and take strategic decisions to improve.

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