What’s the Score?

Mark Frasco - President

May 2014 – I remember as a boy, my father would take me and my brothers to Dodger Stadium to watch our baseball team, the Dodgers. Once we parked the car, checked-in through the turnstile, you could hear the call – “Get your program here!” Our first stop was always to buy a program. Money was exchanged and my father would take possession of that game’s program, and a Dodger pencil.

The program was packed full of pictures of the players, a section on the visiting team, and most importantly, the scorecard. I don’t think I’ve ever attended a ballgame with my father, when he didn’t keep score. In those days, scoreboards were far less sophisticated than today’s high-definition, big screen entertainment centers. Across four rows on the board, in batting order, were the positions and numbers for each team’s lineup. My father would get us settled and begin the detailed process of transposing the lineup onto his scorecard. Each pitch, every batter’s result, noting where the ball went, how the outs were made, by which position, my father went about his work with amazing attention to detail.

I was always fascinated by this ritual. As I learned the cryptic language of scoring a baseball game, I quickly recognized that the collection of information before me, would not only tell me the score of the game, but it would help me tell the “story” of the game. How were the pitchers doing? How were the various hitters doing? Were the fielders playing a quality game, without errors? Were the hitters hitting ground ball outs, line drive or fly outs? Over time, especially with team knowledge, I was able to see patterns and even make predictions, with some accuracy.

The idea of keeping score stuck with me, and years later as I entered the business world, I found practical applications. Accounting departments keep score of the transactions of the organization, reporting on financial results. But, I needed more than that. I wanted to measure the “leading indicators” of the business – those activities and results that could positively impact financial results, but may have nothing to do with money, at least directly.

I read Deming and the Balanced Score Card. I studied the concepts of measurement in the workplace, formalizing my learning. It was fun to transfer what I’d learned on those baseball scorecards and in the classroom, into my work.

  • With an industrial distributor, I measured line items per order. The idea was to get my inside sales team to not hang-up before asking for the add-on item – as McDonalds taught us, “Would you like fries with your burger.”
  • I measured items returned, as a percentage of items shipped. From there we measured why items were returned and assigned teams to solve reoccurring causes.
  • In one organization, our customers were mechanical contractors. We had a robust walk-in business. There, I measured the time a contractor spent in our location, by line items ordered. Time was money and for a contractor, the faster they could get to the jobsite, the faster they were productive.

Here are a few tips to get the most from your measurements:

  • Starting with the result you are looking for, functionally work backwards; asking yourself, how do we produce that outcome?  And again, how do we produce thatoutcome? Each answer to ‘how’ will guide you toward an important leading indicator of the result you are expecting to attain. Measure those leading indicators.
  • Rather than setting arbitrary goals, measure current results of the process. From there, identify waste or rework and take some effort to mitigate. Search for and celebrate continuous improvement.
  • Make your measurements visual – transparent. The faster everyone in the organization knows what you know, the faster corrections can be made. Hiding or protecting process results from job performers is not helpful, and can be destructive.
  • Keep your measurements current. Obviously, old indicators aren’t indicators of much, so take care to update real-time, daily, weekly, or monthly, as appropriate. Find a time duration that will help remove volatility (i.e. rolling 4-week average, rolling 8-hour average)
  • On a regular rhythm, review your measurements publically. Discuss the results you are seeing and make adjustments to processes, as appropriate.

For those of you who may not have experienced the game of baseball while keeping score, you really should give it a try.

Here’s a tutorial for rookies:http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/baseball_basics/keeping_score.jsp . You’ll never suggest that the game is too slow or is starving for action, again.

Questions or comments? Please contact Mark Frasco at mfrasco@teamCOACT.com.