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Editor’s Note: The following excerpt is from the book Total Alignment by Riaz Khadem and Linda Khadem.
The three reports that every manager should use are part of a reporting system that was first described in our book, One Page Management . They are ideal for keeping track of alignment in an organization. Let’s take a closer look at what those three reports can do for you and your teams.
The Focus Report
The Focus Report shows an employee’s performance in relation to the actual status of each of the process indicators assigned to him. The “state” of those indicators is the number that shows the result of the indicator in the previous reporting period. For example, suppose the metric on a scorecard is “Customer Returns Rate” and the return rate for April was 3 percent. Then the status of this metric in your May Focus Report would show that employee performance is 3 percent in the status column. This lets you know how your employee is performing so you can help align their efforts to improve the indicator.
When your status is assessed against some agreed upon criteria, you can determine whether it was “good” or “bad.” We like to use goals to establish those criteria. So for each critical factor on a scorecard, you will set three levels of objectives: minimal, satisfactory, and outstanding. The minimum target is the level below performance that is not acceptable. Satisfactory is the level that would make you feel good about your performance, and outstanding is the level of excellence.
For some factors, such as “number of units produced”, more is better. For other factors, such as “scrap percentage,” less is better. This is why you should set a “minimum or maximum target”. In this way, you can identify acceptable performance as being above the minimum level or below the maximum level, depending on the type of factor. With these criteria, you can determine three scenarios:
1. Excellent performance when the status is better than the pending objective.
2. Good performance or positive exception when status is better than satisfactory goal.
3. Poor performance or negative exception when the status is worse than the minimum target.
Besides “status” and “targets”, other important information is “trend”. The trend shows whether an employee’s status is getting better or worse. For example, your performance last month could be worse than the minimum, but the trend in the last five periods could be good. On the contrary, its performance last month could be better than satisfactory, but the trend could be bad. This is useful information.
Completing focus reports for your employees is a rewarding exercise. It allows you to reflect more deeply on the success factors you have assigned to them, the formula that defines them, the data that goes into your calculation, and the positive action they will require.
The Feedback Report
The second report is called the Feedback Report. This report is a summary of the “good news” and the “bad news” based on the status of your employee’s indicators. It illustrates the factors that have fallen below the unacceptable range in the state and those that are above the satisfactory level. Those that fall between the two are considered in the acceptable range.
This report also illustrates the number of time periods in a row where the factor has been better than the satisfactory goal or worse than the Min / Max goal. At a glance, you can see the feedback on your performance. You try to build feedback reports for each of your employees. Look at each factor on your Focus Report and compare their status to the goals you set for them. Consider whether it is better than the successful goal or worse than the minimum / maximum goal. You also need to take into account how many times in a row this factor has performed better than the successful goal or worse than the minimum / maximum goal.
The Management Report
As a manager, you will need to know the reality of what is happening in your pyramid of responsibility, from the bottom up and from the top down. To do this, you can study the individual focus reports of those who report to you directly and indirectly, although this could be time consuming and ineffective. To provide you with performance insights in a more useful way, there is a third report, the Management Report, which gives you a quick overview of the highlights of the Feedback Reports from everyone in your accountability pyramid, the people who inform you directly and indirectly.
This approach is “management by exception”. What does that mean? People who perform within the acceptable range will not appear in this report; they are doing a satisfying job, and at this point you have little need to address their individual performance. But star performers as well as those who are having challenges will show up. You are looking for the exceptions at both ends of the performance spectrum in this report. Obviously, reporting on all exceptions in the Management Report would saturate this report and reduce its effectiveness. Therefore, an escalation scheme is built into the reporting system to determine which exceptions are reported upstream.
Based on a customizable escalation rule, positive and negative exceptions increase when they are recurring. The rule we recommend is two or more consecutive exceptions worse than the Min / Max level or above the satisfactory level to start moving up to the next level. Beyond that, the speed of the climb depends on the importance of the factor. Some can quickly climb to the next level after three consecutive exceptions and others more slowly.
The rationale for the escalation rule is that, for example, a supervisor who has a rebate problem may have little time to resolve it. If not, notification of the problem will escalate. The boss has a predetermined period of time to help him fix it. If the problem continues, the next level is alerted and so on. If it’s a serious problem and no one seems to have the answer, then the most important person in the organization finds out. Most likely it is a systemic problem that is beyond the control of the supervisor who is at fault. When the problem appears in your Management Report, you know that everyone has tried to fix it. Now you have the opportunity to step in and solve the problem.
You’ll get good news too: with the Management Report, performance is transparent. Outstanding performance is reported upward and the right person is recognized.
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