Friday, 18 September 2009

Perform better with better feedback

Do we perform better when we get clear feedback on how we are doing? You bet!

Some readers will know of my experiments with getting more miles out of my car, and the successes attained by becoming more aware of my driving. But I admit that I don’t always drive carefully, sometimes I just put my foot down and go.

At the beginning of the week I had the chance to drive the new Toyota Prius, with its full range of gadgetry designed to get the maximum miles out of every gallon. This car gives immediate feedback. When my foot presses on the accelerator, the mpg needle drops like a sulky teenager; when my foot eases off a bit, the needle rewards my good behaviour with measurements of 70, 80 or 90 mpg. It is very effective. It is almost impossible to drive irresponsibly in this car. That needle takes all the fun out of flooring it.

This is a wonderful demonstration of how behaviour alters when feedback is immediate, measureable, and appropriate. There are no ifs or buts because I know how I drive my own car when I have less feedback.

In business, therefore, we need to design feedback systems that are close to the desired behaviour and give timely feedback. We need systems that measure and reward behaviours that build towards company objectives, and lead to excellence in the business. Some of these systems may be for big, strategic things. Others may be hygiene factors that nonetheless impact on the efficient running of the business.

They key is to identify what is important, decide on what should be measured, and to make it visible. It is the visibility that makes the difference.

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