Once again I am picking on the accountants and the legal fraternity for the same reason – they have lists and lists and lists of things we need to have or adhere to.
These things are important and to be fair, the reason the accountants and legal sector have these lists is because we business people are just too busy, uninformed or uninspired to bother with figuring out what they should be.
Over time, these external lists have become our benchmarks and standard measures of performance. Often they are entirely irrelevant to our situation and industry but because we don’t know any better, we do the silly things required to comply or be punished.
The existence of standards such as the British Standards or International Standards Organisation’s standards are there to help you develop some best practice for your organisation NOT to adopt someone else’s list. The same goes for profitability, sustainability, carbon foot-printing and so on. The lists and numbers that are out there are important, in many cases regulated, BUT they are not the only things that should be important to your organisation.
Different leaders measure different things. Many measure the standard stuff like cash-flow, project overruns, staff happiness and so forth. The key to the very successful ones is that they are constantly changing the focus of what they measure, using the measurement mechanism to focus on areas that need attention or improvement. Being able to do this dynamically requires some in-depth knowledge of your organisation and what it is you are trying to achieve.
A popular entry point for consultants is the health check – are you ‘something’ compliant? or are you displaying ‘innovation’ traits?, etc. There is nothing wrong with this approach if you don’t have a body of internal knowledge to access. Most organisations have this knowledge, tacit or explicit and it is the task of the great leader to find the knowledge and to use it to create an internal health check, for things that matter in your organisation. Now, once you have figured out what is important to your organisation, you can go hunting for lists that help to make sure you have covered all the angles.
My advice to most leaders is to go and dig deep into their own organisation first, figure out what makes your organisation tick and then build your measures of performance and only then build a health check that is relevant to your objectives, goals and ultimately survival.