The Math of Work: 6 Tips for Mastering the Scorecard Tool

By: Mark Abbott

When building a sustainable business, numbers (and their associated math) must be understood to fully understand how things are going and how close or far the company is to reaching its goals. A common tool used to accomplish this is a "Scorecard," a tool to help capture those numbers, making it easy to track what's working well and any areas that need extra attention. This article explains more about mastering the Scorecard and its use.

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It's simply impossible to build a sustainable business without a focus on numbers and their associated math. Unless you love burning through cash with no end, you must look at numbers to understand how your business is doing and when the related math makes sense (e.g., revenue > expenses). 

Over time, every competent business builder, leader, manager, coach, and non-managerial worker finds themselves wanting to understand better the math associated with their work. Everyone wants to have a clear sense of when things are going well and when they are not. At the risk of stating the obvious, math isn't everyone's favorite thing – some of us are much better at this than others – but someone needs to make sure we not only understand the math associated with our work but that the math is telling us how things are going.

One of the most common tools that businesses use to understand the math of their Work is this thing we like to call a Scorecard. 

The basic idea behind a Scorecard is that it shows a bunch of key metrics (a.k.a. measurables and key performance indicators or KPIs) that help us see where and when things are working well or not. 

Most businesses start with only a limited number of measurables actively watched and managed, such as revenue, expenses and cash. As a business grows and becomes more complex, it divides the work into departments (e.g., sales and marketing, operations, finance, etc.). In short, these departments also start to have their own sets of measurables that they monitor and manage and sooner or later, they will also have their own scorecards. 

As the company continues to grow, it starts to build teams and layers and sooner or later, each team has its own Scorecard composed of a bunch of measurables owned by its members. The result is that it's almost inevitable that, over time, if the business is reasonably well run, every person in the company will have a set of measurables and their own mini Scorecard.

Having coached hundreds of companies, I can tell you that most struggle with figuring out how to master the use of a Scorecard tool across their organizations. If you are one of them, know that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Ninety is here to help you demystify the art and science of Scorecard mastery and provide you with a collection of tools that makes mastering the Scorecard. 

Everyone Needs Numbers

Everyone in a reasonably well-run company should have a specific job. We like to call those jobs "seats." Every seat should have a list of roles and responsibilities that clearly define what the people sitting in the seat are responsible for. The tool we have for ensuring we understand who is responsible for what is commonly called an "organization chart." Some call it a "roles and responsibilities" chart. Essentially, it is a graphical representation of who is responsible for what within the organization.

The fact that your colleagues are responsible for something is a great thing because it means that they matter to us, and as people who matter to us, we want to make sure they understand what great work looks like and what not-so-great work looks like. At the risk of stating the obvious, it's far better for the seat holder and their manager (who we hope will view themselves as a coach) if everyone is on the same page regarding what good performance looks like. One of the easiest ways to do this is to talk about the math associated with every one of their responsibilities. 

Yes, we know that sometimes the math isn't so apparent. Other times it's more of a matter of "yes" or "no," yet we've never seen a seat where we, the manager (a.k.a. coach), and the seat holder couldn't come up with three to five measurables that made it simple to see if things were going well or not. 

Three to Five

If you buy into the notion that it's smart to not only have everyone understand the math associated with their seat but also know what good and not-so-good look like, the next big question is what's "just right" in terms of the number of measurables that every seat should have. We've had this debate with our coaching colleagues for years, and we're fans of "three to five" measurables per seat. Why?

The big issue with one or two measurables is that they tend to overemphasize one area, and whenever people do this, it creates problems. The beauty of at least three measurables is that three, like the legs of a stool, tend to provide a more balanced view of what matters. For example, almost every seat in a company can have some measurable associated with quality, timeliness and process – and most have some form of quantity that can be worthy of measurement.

Five to Fifteen

Once you buy into the notion that every seat can have at least three measurables, the next question is, how many measurables does a good team Scorecard have. The number of measurables on a Scorecard can vary and should be based on the data that's most indicative of how things are going. These measurables can then be reviewed weekly to ensure everyone is on the right track, getting the results necessary to support quarterly Rocks and longer-term goals

In other words, did we win this week? No need to ask the Magic 8 Ball. The Scorecard reveals a more accurate answer.

6 Tips for Scorecard Mastery

1. Measure Less, Achieve More

Keep measurables meaningful for the company. Unnecessary metrics can distract teams from what really matters when it comes to achieving goals and driving success.

2. Include the Basics

Standard industry measures and key sales, finance, and operations indicators may be the same numbers the competition may be measuring. A robust Scorecard allows for an expanded approach that is as unique as it is useful. Put your own spin on what the right numbers are for your company. That might include things such as quantifying delivery, customer satisfaction, and call response times. Do it well, and it could provide for differentiation over the competition.

3. Identify Weekly Measurables

At a minimum, we all want to know the results that must be achieved weekly to drive growth for the organization. As a team, ask yourselves every week, did we accomplish these goals? Are we satisfied with the trends we see? Are things on track?

5. Measure Performance Throughout Your Organization

It's important to go beyond the leadership team Scorecard and create measurables for different departments, including front-line employees, that reflect and support the organization's greater vision. As mentioned, measurables can be set for an entire enterprise down to the individual, as all are important to organizational success.

6. Adjust When Necessary

Scorecards are intended to be a work in progress. Take time to evaluate whether the Scorecard and its specific measurables continue to reflect the criteria necessary to drive the company forward. What's missing? What's no longer essential? Explore ways the Scorecard can work even better, supporting team efforts to work smarter.

New Features and Upgrades to Ninety's Scorecards Tool

New Feature: Custom Goals

The dynamic nature of some industries requires tracking the true measure of performance with seasonality reflected in the numbers. Users can now install custom goals to Measurables on a score-by-score basis.

How to Input Custom Goals:

  • Update the Measurable as normal by entering the value into the data cell.
  • Click on the icon in the cell's top right corner.
  • Enter the custom goal in the window that appears.
  • Custom goals are only reflected in the cell they are attached to. The icon will appear in light gray to show that there is a custom goal for that score. Hover over a cell to see the custom goal. 

Upgrade: Better Organization

To help team members more easily distinguish between groups of Measurables, line breaks can be added between sets of Measurables to segment and organize your Scorecard data.

To Add a Line Break:

  • Begin on the left side of the Measurable owner.
  • Hover your mouse over a faint grey line.
  • Click the small icon that appears.
  • Click on the line again to remove the break.

Value: Digital Storage

One of the great things about Ninety's Scorecards is that they're cloud-based and stored digitally. They contain a visual record of all goals and Measurables so that people can access all data with company-wide transparency.

Sign up for a free trial with access to all functions, features and support. We guarantee that you'll love it.