Fun with Flags

October 13, 2016

Posted by Brent Robertson

Aptean Factory MES, Coach’s Corner, MES

 

In a recent interview, famed fantasy writer George R.R. Martin discussed how flags were a large part of developing such a creative mind at such an early age. Martin tells the story of growing up in New Jersey overlooking Manhattan and watching ships sail in and out of the harbor from all across the globe. He would look at the flags flying high atop these ships and craft stories about the peoples and lands from where they came. The author marveled at how something as simple as flags can convey so much information and create such a level of curiosity.

In our post today, we will draw comparisons between flags and a means of succinctly conveying information in our businesses today. What does a flag really do? What is its purpose? I would argue that flags are used to communicate information about nations and organizations in as simple a way as possible while remaining easily identifiable. Flags primarily use colors and shapes and, at their very best, are immediately recognizable. Take the flags of the USA, UK or Germany as examples. These would likely be recognized by the majority of the world’s population, and all done with just the use of colors and shapes.

So what does this have to do with us as we are busy running our businesses? Isn’t there something that you use daily, or perhaps many times throughout the day that is essential to communicating information in its simplest form? How about dashboards? Are you getting the most out of yours?

Dashboards exist to provide an organization with a means of conveying data to their audience. But what are the elements of really effective ones? Let’s consider these four essential elements as we consider how to make best use of this tool to better improve our operational performance. Dashboards should be:

  • Aligned to goals

  • Visual in nature

  • Readily accessible

  • Relevant

A good dashboard should be aligned to your organizational goals. Think of what is on your dashboard as prime real estate. Only the essential information should be included here so you don’t risk anyone tuning out due to a busy screen that they have to parse through to understand. This is your means of conveying key metrics that you want to communicate to your teams, so keep it simple and direct. This will also provide you with a means of aligning your team to your objectives as everybody will be looking at the same things and clearly understand what is important to their organization.

Dashboards should also be visual in nature. Consider the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” You want the viewer to immediately understand what is being represented and equipped to take action without having to ponder about the content on the screen. Try to use as many charts and graphs as possible and make sure to use colors to identify important elements of the data. The key here is to make certain the information is understood clearly and immediately.

Another important element of an effective dashboard is that it is highly accessible. You want your team members to always be able to gauge how they are performing without having to seek out the information. By distributing this data effectively, it reinforces that everyone is on the same page. This allows for real time adjustments and a visual means of seeing the effect(s) of teams working together to set and achieve their goals.

The information you are distributing on your dashboards should be relevant. It should be refreshed frequently or be precisely the data that you want to communicate to drive action (last shift, last product run, last week, last month, last quarter, etc.)  Be mindful to continuously review what you are distributing with your dashboards to ensure it is exactly what you want to communicate, or you run the risk of losing employee engagement.

I hope you like my idea of dashboards being flags for your organization. Everyone should immediately understand what it is being communicated and operate as a team under one banner. I strongly believe in their ability to drive excellence in your organizations if utilized effectively.

If you would like to discuss how to improve your dashboard, please reach out to me or your account executive to discuss how Aptean can work with you to make your dashboard a key element in delivering results for your organization.